Posts Tagged ‘Albert Hammond’

A Stop In 1975

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

We’re going to scan the digital shelves here today and play around in 1975, checking out five tracks from that long-gone but fondly remembered year. We’ve got a little more than 1,800 tracks to play with, so we’ll sort them by time, put the cursor in the middle of the column, and go.

Our first stop is a track titled “Thirty-Piece Band” by guitarist and singer Ellen McIlwaine from her third album, The Real Ellen McIlwaine. Recorded in Montreal and released on the Canadian Kot’ai label – after her first two albums came out on Polydor – the album is generally a decent mix of covers and originals. She’s not well-known – never having hit any chart that I’ve ever seen – but her records from the 1960s and 1970s were nice additions to a collection. According to Wikipedia, she released a couple albums in Japan in the early 2000s. “Thirty-Piece Band” is two-and-a-half minutes of churning solo guitar work topped off in the middle by some vamping and less than coherent lyrics. It’s not one of McIlwaine’s best moments.

On we go, landing on Linda Ronstadt’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox” from Prisoner In Disguise, an album that went to No. 4 in the Billboard 200 after being released in September 1975. Ronstadt’s cover of James Taylor’s 1971 album track has always been my favorite track from Prisoner; her restrained vocal and the light steel guitar are far more effective than anything else on the album, including the hits (“Love Is A Rose,” “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Heat Wave”). From this point on (with just a few exceptions), Ronstadt seemed a lot more vehement and got a lot less interesting.

The late Larry Jon Wilson pops up here from time to time with his southern wit. This time, it’s “The Truth Ain’t In You” from his debut album New Beginnings. A mostly spoken tale of an early 1960s college-age pursuit of a young woman, the track rambles on nicely, winding around three times to the chorus: “You don’t love Jesus and the truth ain’t in you.” Fun, like much of Wilson’s work was.

In 1975, Gordon Lightfoot followed up the mega-success of 1974’s Sundown – buoyed by two Top Ten singles (“Sundown” and “Carefree Highway”), the album was No. 1 for two weeks during the summer of 1974 – with Cold On The Shoulder, an album similar in approach but, to my ears, less distinctive. Part of that judgment, certainly might be that I know Sundown better, having listened to it more frequently. The tune we fall on today is “Now & Then” from Cold On The Shoulder. It’s your basic softer Lightfoot song, a tuneful reverie of love now gone that slips on occasion into cliché, backed with chiming guitars and perhaps a few too many strings. Pleasant listening, but not as satisfying as his best work.

Albert Hammond has popped up here from time to time, at least once for his hit “It Never Rains In Southern California” and one other time for his “99 Miles From L.A.” Today, we get “Lay The Music Down” from the 99 Miles From L.A. album. A song of lost love told in the context of musicians and their songs, “Lay The Music Down” is backed, says Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, by “mild disco rhythms.” I don’t get that, but okay. It’s a decent track but no more than that.

Saturday Single No. 430

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

We’re gonna play some games with numbers and then dig around in my sweet spot again today, looking for a tune good for a Saturday morning. We’ll look at the Billboard Hot 100 that was in effect on January 24 during the years from 1969 through 1973, checking out which records were at No. 24. And from those five records, we’ll select one for today’s feature. (We’ll also – as we tend to do – check out which record was at No. 1, just for fun.)

As we start our little trip in a Hot 100 from 1969, we get some advice for the ladies from Tammy Wynette: “Stand By Your Man” sits at No. 24, heading up to No. 19 in the Hot 100, as well as to No. 11 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart and to a three-week stay at No. 1 on the country chart. I’ve referred to Wynette’s record only once before in eight years of blogging, when I told the tale of inadvertently stopping for a brew in what my friends and I quickly realized was a Viennese bordello where “Stand By Your Man” and Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou” were the only records in English on the jukebox. That experience doesn’t mean I won’t choose the record as today’s feature, but it doesn’t earn it any bonus points, either. Sitting at No. 1 at the time was “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.

Heading to 1970, we find a Hot 100 released on January 24, forty-five years ago today, and sitting in spot No. 24 was “Ain’t It Funky Now (Part 1)” by James Brown. I doubt if I’ve ever heard the instrumental jam until this morning: The record never made it to KDWB’s “6+30 Survey” back in 1970, from what I can see at Oldiesloon this morning; it’s not in the digital files here; and it’s not one of the thirty tracks included on the James Brown anthology in the vinyl stacks. One can argue, I guess, that I have not paid James Brown enough attention, and that’s possible. In any case, “Ain’t It Funky Now (Part 1)” went no higher in the Hot 100 while peaking at No. 3 on the R&B chart. Sitting at No. 1 forty-five years ago today was “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by B.J. Thomas.

As the final weeks of my last January in high school rolled by in 1971, the No. 24 record on the Hot 100 was the double-sided “I Really Don’t Want To Know/There Goes My Everything” by Elvis Presley. I don’t remember hearing either of the sides on the radio back then although I know the B-side now, and I know I’ve heard the A-side at least once before this morning. Both tracks are from the 1971 album Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old), which made its way to the vinyl stacks here in 1998 and has been pretty much ignored since. The single went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, to No. 2 on the AC chart and to No. 22 on the country chart. (Elvis was the fifth performer to chart with “I Really Don’t Want To Know.” The others were Tommy Edwards in 1960, Solomon Burke in 1962, Esther Phillips in 1963 and Ronnie Dove in 1966.) Sitting at No. 1 during the fourth week of January 1971 was Dawn’s “Knock Three Times.”

And we move from records that don’t matter much to one that makes me cringe. Parked at No. 24 during the fourth week of January 1972 was David Cassidy’s remake of the Association’s “Cherish.” Never mind the emotional importance of the original record in my life: On musical merits alone – performance and production – Cassidy’s version of the tune was weak, a judgment I reaffirm whenever the record pops up on the Seventies Channel of our cable TV system. But that didn’t matter to the listening and/or record buying public back in 1972: Cassidy’s “Cherish” went to No. 9 on the Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the AC chart. Sitting atop the chart that week for the second of an eventual four weeks was Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

Nor does the fourth week in January 1973 bring us much joy, as the No. 24 record that week was Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains In Southern California,” which I’ve targeted here before for what I’ve always heard as an awkward second line: “Didn’t think before decided what to do.” Then again, I have to admit that I’ve not paid any attention to the record while hearing it on a decent set of speakers. The single is in the vinyl stacks on a K-Tel compilation to which I likely gave short shrift when I played it after buying it in the autumn of 1988, and giving it a closer listening this morning, I’m willing to think that Hammond is actually singing “before decidin’ what to do.” And with that little bit of disdain out of the way, I’m willing to say that Hammond’s record, which went to No. 5 (No. 2, AC), is a decent record. The No. 1 record during that week in 1973 was Carly Simon’s “He’s So Vain.”

So there we have five candidates, none of which utterly thrill me. But given my likely mishearing of the Albert Hammond lyric for more than forty years, I really have no choice but to make Hammond’s “It Never Rains In Southern California” this week’s Saturday Single.*

*The single label of the Hammond record as shown at Discogs has a running time of 3:12, but we all know how that can go. “It Never Rains” was also the title track for Hammond’s 1973 album, where it clocked 3:55, so the above video is likely the album track (with the correct lyric, I should note with a red face).

Back To Garden City

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

As you might recall, we spent a little bit of time last Saturday poking around a music survey released on March 15, 1974, by radio station KUPK of Garden City, Kansas. The thirty-record survey showed some familiar records, mostly at the upper end, and a fair number of records not so familiar. Four of the records on the KUPK survey, I noted, didn’t even dent the Billboard charts or its Bubbling Under section, and I chose one of those four – “Roll It” by Nino Tempo & 5th Ave. Sax – for our Saturday Single.

In addition, I noted that nine other records on the Garden City survey were ranked a good deal higher than they ever got on the Billboard charts. Now, it’s not out of the ordinary for records to do better in one market than they do nationally. But thirteen out of thirty? That seemed a bit odd. Here, listed by their rankings on the KUPK survey, are those thirteen records and their Billboard peaks:

No. 12: “Star” by Stealers Wheel, No. 29.
No. 16: “On A Night Like This” by Bob Dylan, No. 44.
No. 19: “I’m A Train” by Albert Hammond, No. 31.
No. 20: “Music Eyes” by Heartsfield, No. 95.
No. 22: “Roll It” by Nino Tempo & 5th Ave. Sax, did not chart.
No. 23: “Skybird” by Neil Diamond, No. 75.
No. 24: “Loving Arms” by Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge, No. 86.
No. 25: “You’re So Unique” by Billy Preston, No. 48.
No. 26: “When The Morning Comes” by Hoyt Axton, No. 54.
No. 27: “All The Kings And Castles” by Shawn Phillips, did not chart.
No. 28: “Stone Country” by Johnny Winter, did not chart.
No. 29: “Invisible Song” by the Rainbow Canyon Band, did not chart.
No. 30: “Pepper Box” by the Peppers, No. 76.

Seven of those records were unfamiliar to me, though I knew most of the performers and one of the songs. I’d never heard of the Rainbow Canyon Band (listed only as “Rainbow Canyon” on the KUPK survey) or the Peppers. And I’ve known the song “Loving Arms” for years, but I’d never heard Kris and Rita’s cover. So after sharing “Roll It” last Saturday, I went and found videos of the six remaining unfamiliar records. Then, even though the Shawn Phillips track was one that I knew, I posted a video of it because it was one of those listed that did not chart in Billboard.

The Rainbow Canyon Band, according to the YouTube poster, was a well-known Cleveland group that came to the attention of James Gang drummer Jim Fox, who produced “Invisible Song” and brought James Gang guitarist Tommy Bolin to the sessions. The Peppers, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, were an instrumental duo from Paris; “Pepper Box” was the duo’s only charting single.

As I noted last week, I’m not a chart maven; I do have a sense that the KUPK survey is odd in hosting so many singles that out-perform their national ranking. And I noticed a couple of other things that intrigued me about the KUPK survey.

First, in addition to the “Pop & Contemporary” listing, the survey – seen here – had a ten-record listing for easy listening and a twenty-record listing for country, so just from those three lists, it’s evident that the station had vastly different sorts of programming for different day-parts, something not at all rare for small town stations (and, by our estimate based on the 1970 and 1980 censuses listed at Wikipedia, Garden City had about 16,000 residents in 1974).

Supporting that assumption are three notes in the text at the top of the survey: “Capt. Weird, Roger Unruh” offered listeners the program Rock Garden on Saturday nights from 10:30 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Jim Throneberry, the “Morning Mayor” was on the air from 7 to 9; and a new voice on the station was that of Bob Hill, who ran the Country Show from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (And I wonder if some of the records in the “Pop & Contemporary” listing might not have been heard on Capt. Weird’s Rock Garden.)

Here’s a guess at KUPK’s weekday: A morning show with news and farm reports from 4 to 7 a.m. followed by Jim Throneberry until 9 a.m., and then maybe easy listening (with some news at noon) until 5 p.m. After more news, country music from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Then more news, and “Pop & Contemporary” until 4 the next morning. (Perhaps on the FM side; the AM side went off the air at sunset, as friend and faithful reader Yah Shure notes below.)

After pondering that, I took a closer look at the “Pop & Contemporary” listing, and I was struck by the volatility of the survey. Of the thirty records listed, sixteen were new to the survey that week, including two in the top ten: Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling” and Rick Derringer’s “Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo.” I’d love to have seen the KUPK surveys from the week before and the week after, but unfortunately, the March 15, 1974, survey is the only one from KUPK available at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, and a quick Googling found no others (although I did learn that the Davis Sisters of nearby Meade, sponsored by KUPK, won the 1973 Kansas State Fair Talent Contest).

As it happens, KUPK radio is no longer on the air; KUPK-TV is a satellite station of KAKE-TV in Wichita, about two hundred miles away; a segment of KAKE’s nightly show originates from a newsroom at the KUPK studios. I assume that arrangement dates from the Garden City station’s founding in 1964, as the call letters KUPK, according to Wikipedia, are meant to symbolize Kup-Kake.

(The station’s history is not quite right in that preceding paragraph. Yah Shure also untangled the KUPK story in his note, and he gets my thanks.)

So what does all this mean? I have absolutely no idea. It’s just interesting stuff – interesting to me, anyway – from forty years ago. And we’ll close this morning with what’s likely my favorite record of the thirty listed on the KUPK Music Survey from mid-March 1974: “When The Morning Comes,” on which Hoyt Axton got some help from Linda Ronstadt. As noted above, the record – from Axton’s 1974 album Life Machine – went to No. 54 on the Billboard pop chart (and to No. 10 on the country chart).