Saturday Single No. 514

The top ten records in the Billboard Hot 100 that was released fifty years ago today – October 22, 1966 – make, with one exception, a great stretch of listening:

“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“96 Tears” by ? & The Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Cherish” by the Association
“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals

Even though I was about three years away from rescuing my grandpa’s old RCA radio from the basement and listening to Top 40 every night, I knew most of those during my second month of eighth grade. I probably would not have recognized the Count Five record nor perhaps “See See Rider,” but I heard the others all around me and liked most of them although even then I thought that “Dandy” was pretty slight.

But as I often do when looking at a long-ago Hot 100, I’m going to head toward the bottom of the chart in search of something new or different (or at least forgotten). Way down at the bottom, bubbling under at No. 135, is “Clock” by Eddie Rambeau. When I saw that it was produced by Bob Crewe, I had hopes for it, but it’s pretty bland. It turns out that “Clock” was the last of five records that Rambeau got into or near the Hot 100; four of them did no more than bubble under, but his cover of “Concrete and Clay” went to No. 35 in the spring of 1965. (The original, by Unit Four plus Two, went to No. 28 the same week.)

Still in the Bubbling Under section, I see records by Don Covay, the Baja Marimba Band, Laura Nyro, Del Shannon, Bert Kaempfert, the Shirelles and the Chiffons. And I see two versions of “Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad),” one by Jerry Vale, whose name I recognize, and one by Paul Vance, whose name is new to me, as is the tune. As I expected, it’s a slow sad ballad; I might have found it moving when I was thirteen (and vainly besotted with a sweet blonde who sat near me in science class), but it’s not what I’m looking for today. Vale’s version peaked at No. 93 and Vance’s at No. 97; Vale’s version went to No. 5 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary.

In the records ranked from No. 80 to No. 99, I see a lot of familiar names – B.B. King, Brian Hyland, Lee Dorsey, Percy Sledge, the Standells, Bobby Bland, the O’Jays, James Carr and more – but not a lot of familiar records. Still, nothing much catches my attention, so we climb upward.

At No. 77, we find one of two versions in this chart of “The Wheel of Hurt,” this one by Al Martino, a regular in the charts from 1959 to 1977. I remember him best for his 1967 record “Mary in the Morning.” The other version of “The Wheel of Hurt” in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was Margaret Whiting’s version at No. 68. I know Margaret Whiting’s name as one of the most successful female vocalists of the 1940s. “The Wheel of Hurt” was her most successful offering of ten charting or near-charting records in the Hot 100 era, going to No. 26 in the Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the AC chart. Martino’s version got to only No. 59 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 12 on the AC chart. Still I’m not pulled in, and we go up to the records ranking from Nos. 50 to 59.

Back in the Bubbling Under section, we passed Patti Page’s cover of “Almost Persuaded” sitting at No. 113. It would go no higher, but it’s worth noting because David Houston’s original version of the song was still in the Hot 100, sitting at No. 43 after peaking at No. 24. (Thinking about Houston’s record always reminds me of Leo Rau, the record and candy jobber who lived across the alley; in one of the boxes of records he passed on to me in the mid-1960s were several sleeves for the Houston single although I’m not sure I ever got a copy of the record.)

Also in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was “Almost Persuaded No. 2,” a drunken-sounding satire of Houston’s record recorded by Sheb Wooley of “Purple People Eater” fame and released under the name of Ben Colder. It was one of five novelty sequels to popular country tunes credited to Colder; none did very well, with “Almost Persuaded No. 2” doing the best by reaching No. 58.

Then we reach No. 42, and we find a record that’s new to me and that I’m a little reluctant to write about. That’s not because it’s not a good one, but because seeing it in the chart makes me feel a little stupid. It’s a record I should have known about a long time ago, and my only defense is that I was thirteen when it was in the charts. Anyway, from what I see at oldiesloon, Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong” did not make the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB, which was the main St. Cloud source of Top 40 tunes in 1966, so I’m not sure where I could have heard it.

Lee’s record was heading up to No. 11, and, as I said, I should have known about it a long time ago, and not just because it’s a good record. I should have known about it because I should have tried to figure out years ago exactly what Golden Earring meant with the line “Brenda Lee is comin’ on strong” in the 1974 hit “Radar Love.” Well, confession is supposed to be good for the soul, and I’ll confess here that sometimes I’m an idiot.

And with that, here’s Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong,” today’s Saturday Single.

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One Response to “Saturday Single No. 514”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    One of the folks I invited to a Name That Tune party at my apartment in 1976 was John, who’d succeeded me as music director at our college radio station. John was five years my junior, and the only one in the room who hadn’t grown up listening to top-40 radio (metal and prog had shepherded his musical upbringing.)

    One of the records I threw on the turntable was the Brenda Lee Decca 45. It was quickly identified by one of my fraternity brothers, who then sang the pertinent line from “Radar Love.”

    I was just about to play the next record, when I noticed John off to the side, looking shell-shocked. Upon asking if he was okay, John replied, “I always assumed those were two unrelated statements: the radio played that forgotten song, and Brenda Lee’s coming on strong. I had no idea it was an actual record!”

    Not that John would have been the least bit familiar with Brenda Lee at the time, either. He learned some top-40 oldies A-B-Cs that night, while the rest of us suddenly felt older.

    KDWB did add the record, although they were fairly late in doing so, waiting until the week ending November 12th, when it hit Billboard’s top 20 (it would peak on the station’s Big 6+30 survey one month later at 16.) “Coming On Strong” received plenty of spins on Channel 63, in spite of its middling performance on the station’s survey.

    That same Name That Tune party produced a big surprise for its host, courtesy of John’s girlfriend, Adrian. One of the left-field stumpers on the party’s playlist was the Ellie Greenwich-Mike Rashkow-produced psych-phase/pop masterpiece, “Mirrors Of Your Mind” (under the nom de plume, The Definitive Rock Chorale) which bothered neither Billboard, Record World, Cash Box nor the Big 6+30 in late 1967. In the Twin Cities, the record received two or three weeks’ worth of minimal spins as an uncharted extra on KDWB, then vanished forever. Who’d remember any song that obscure some nine years later?

    Adrian not only knew the song right out of the gate, she sang right along with it. After what had to have been my own look of shock and awe, Adrian said it had been a big hit back in her Anchorage hometown.

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