Posts Tagged ‘Alvin Cash & The Registers’

Saturday Single No. 709

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Our main task today here on the North Side is to defrost the freezer. Somehow, when we bought our new freezer the day we moved into the condo (or perhaps the day after) in February 2018, we neglected to see if the new appliance – like the old one – was frost-free.

It isn’t, and defrosting the thing is one of those chores we tend to put off. Today, however, is the day.

We have plastic bins in the kitchen, waiting to be filled with the freezer’s contents, and nature is helping out today, with an outdoor temperature that will stay well under freezing all day. So we’ll just put the filled bins on the deck as we get to the work inside.

With the Texas Gal doing some prep upstairs, it’s about time for me to make my appearance, so we’ll just default to a record I’ve mentioned a couple times before but never featured here: “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. In 1966, it went to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 12 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

The Airheads Radio Survey Archive tells us that “The Philly Freeze” went to No. 1 on WJLB in Detroit, and hit the Top Ten on WJMO in Cleveland, WVON and WBEE in Chicago, WCHB in Detroit, and CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. The highest it went in Philadelphia – at least according to the information compiled at ARSA – was to No. 52 at WIBG.

Anyway, here’s “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: August 13, 1966

Friday, August 13th, 2010

For your faithful narrator on August 13, 1966, eighth grade stood only a few weeks away, an obstacle course of classes like basic geometry, the physical sciences, and shop, which this year would include sessions on electricity, metalwork and plastic resins. There would, thankfully, also be time spent in English class, in geography and in band and choir.

And in the spring would come the welcome diversion of the school play, Plenty of Money. He would in the end be disappointed, claiming only the role of Mr. Johnson, a senior citizen who has business at the bank at the time it is robbed. Mr. Johnson’s sole utterance during the play was to tell the robbers, “You can’t do that!” Well, they could and they did, potentially wiping out Mr. Johnson’s nest egg and possibly leaving him to a life of tuna-noodle casserole and Saltine crackers. Admittedly, your narrator never considered Mr. Johnson’s post-robbery life; he was only interested in divesting himself of Mr. Johnson’s sport coat, slacks and wrinkles after the two scheduled performances.

But in mid-August, the disappointment of being Mr. Johnson for two evenings is still nine months away. The summer dwindles, and as it does, your narrator hears around him the sounds of popular music, most of them tunes he recognizes even though he’s not yet at the point of being an active listener.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the week ending August 13, 1966.

“Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs
“They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa” by Napoleon XIV
“Wild Thing” by the Troggs
“The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters
“I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & The Papas
“Sunny” by Bobby Hebb
“Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones
“Somewhere, My Love” by Ray Conniff & The Singers
“Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe

I liked most of those, with much of my affection reserved for Ray Conniff’s very middle-of-the-road performance of the theme from the film Dr. Zhivago, a piece of music that’s remained one of my favorites for more than forty years now. This record, Conniff’s only Top 40 hit, peaked this week at No. 9, though it spent four weeks at No. 1 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary.

My feelings for the silly record by Napoleon XIV couldn’t be called affection, but I thought the record – at its peak at No. 3 – was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard. Of course, I was only 12 – just twenty-three days from being 13 – and my tastes were still forming. But oddness was already prime among them, and “They’re Coming To Take Me Away” had that quality to a degree difficult to measure:

 

Napoleon XIV, according to All-Music Guide, “was actually Jerry Samuels, a 28-year-old recording engineer who had previously written small hit singles for pop crooners Johnny Ray and Sammy Davis, Jr., as well as making a conventional single of his own.” The flip side of “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa,” as I’m sure many of you know, was the A-side played backwards, with, predictably, “!Aah-ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” serving as the title. Samuels got enough notoriety out of the hit to be able to release an album. His hit was the title song, accompanied by what AMG calls “more atonal odes to madness varying the bedrock elements of minimal percussion and speeded-up chant/vocals.” Other titles on the album included “Marching off to Bedlam,” “Let’s Cuddle in My Security Blanket,” “I Live In A Split-Level Head” and – credited to Josephine IV – “I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!”

(I should note here the passing on August 4 of Bobby Hebb, who not only recorded “Sunny” but wrote the song. Forty-four years ago, during the week we’re examining here, the song was on its way to No. 2. That means that Hebb was keeping some exclusive company around this time in 1966: The Los Angeles Times noted last week that, “At the height of the song’s popularity, Hebb toured with the Beatles in the United States.”)

A little bit lower in the Top 40 lay at least one gem that week. Bobby Moore was a saxophone player from Montgomery, Alabama, and he and his group, the Rhythm Aces, recorded for Checker, a subsidiary label to the famous Chess label. The second week of August found the group’s “Searching For My Love” peaking at No. 27.

From No. 27, we’re going to drop way down in that chart from August 13, 1966, not stopping until we’re at No. 80, where we find the Alan Price Set, a group headed by the one-time organist for the Animals. Price might be best known in his post-Animals career for composing the soundtrack to the 1973 film O Lucky Man! But in 1966, he and the Set got to No. 80 with a terrific performance of “I Put A Spell On You.”

In early 1965, Alvin Cash & The Crawlers had a No. 14 hit with “Twine Time,” which went to No. 4 on the R&B chart. Since then, Cash had seen one more record hit the Billboard Hot 100: “The Barracuda” went to No. 59 (No. 29 on the R&B chart). On August 13, 1966, “The Philly Freeze” – credited to Alvin Cash & The Registers – was at No. 89 in the Hot 100. The record peaked at No. 49 and at No. 12 on the R&B chart, and I think it deserved better.

Three slots further down the Hot 100, we find Chicago’s Five Stairsteps, still four years away from their only Top 40 hit, “O-o-h Child.” But “World of Fantasy,” currently sitting at No. 92, sounded pretty good as it headed to peaks of No. 49 in the Hot 100 and No. 12 on the R&B chart.

Then, dipping into the Bubbling Over section of the August 13, 1966, chart, there’s a nifty instrumental by a group called the Dynatones, about which I know nothing more than this: “The Fife Piper” peaked at No. 53, where it spent the first two weeks of October. It, like “The Philly Freeze,” likely deserved better.

That should do it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a Saturday Single.