When I got to the Echoes In The Wind studios this morning, there – sitting on the floor and shredding paper – were my two long-absent tuneheads: Odd and Pop. They insisted that they’ve been around these few months, but if they were, I was unaware of their presence, and I sometimes strained to find topics to write about and dithered on what tunes to share.
“All you had to do to find me,” Pop said this morning, “is pull your collection of Billboard annual Top Ten LPs down from the shelf. I was right behind those, thinking about a port on a western bay that serves a hundred ships a day.” Pop looked over at the shelf where the album Top Rock ’n’ Roll Hits from 1972 sits with its fellows, and then he looked up at me. “There’s a girl in that harbor town,” he added, a little wistfully. “Brandy is her name.”
Odd snorted. “I know, I know: No. 1 for one week in 1972!” He shrugged his shoulders. “But it’s not the worst of them from that year. After all, that was when the No. 1 record for two weeks was Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-A-Ling’.” Odd grimaced and moved his mouth as if something tasted very, very bad. Even Pop looked distinctly uncomfortable. He opened his mouth and then paused, as if trying to figure out how to defend the indefensible.
“And you,” I said, turning to Odd. “Where were you?”
“Oh, I moved around the shelves a little bit,” he said. “I started up at Fleetwood Mac, right next to Tusk. I do love that University of Southern California band!” His eyes looked in the distance, and his head bobbed for a moment before he muttered, “Don’t say that you love me!”
Pop rolled his eyes. “Come on,” he said. “That’s not all that strange. ‘Tusk’ went to No. 8 in 1979.”
“No,” Odd admitted. “It’s not all that strange, at least not anymore. When it came out, it was pretty gripping. But its WQ has dropped a lot over the last thirty-some years.”
“WQ?” Pop and I say simultaneously.
“That’s ‘Weirdness Quotient,’ a formula I’ve been working on for the past few months,” Odd told us. “It’s nowhere near usable yet, but I got the idea after I left the Fleetwood Mac section of the shelves and went over to the classical records for a while.” He cocked his head. “Did you know that you have an LP of Russian liturgical music?”
“Yeah,” I say. “It’s interesting in small doses.”
Odd nods. “Or even large doses,” he says happily.
Pop shook his head sadly. “No chart action there,” he said.
“And where did you go from the classical shelves?” I asked Odd.
“Oh, I thought I’d better go find this charthead here,” he said, pointing at Pop. “And there he was, mooning over some girl who works laying whiskey down. I mean, they should at least have had Brandy serving brandy!”
Pop shakes his head. “Too suggestive for the pop chart in 1972,” he said.
“Well, maybe,” Odd said. “Anyway, on the way to the Billboard LPs, I passed by those Baby Boomer Classic anthologies. You’ve got about nine of them.”
“Yep,” I said. “They’re decent, with some interesting choices.”
“And I noticed,” Odd went on, “that one of them featured the song ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum.”
“Yes!” cried Pop. “No. 5 in 1967!”
“And I thought,” Odd said, “that maybe I might like a version of the song that’s maybe not so popular or well-known.”
Pop thought for a minute and then said, “I know of a version of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ that’s just about as strange as the original but much more obscure.”
“Did it make the charts?”
“Well,” Pop said, “it bubbled under at No. 101. So it wasn’t actually in the Billboard Hot 100.”
“Better and better,” said Odd. “I assume there is a video?”
“Oh, yes,” said Pop. “And it’s sublimely weird.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Odd.
And that’s how Annie Lennox’s 1995 cover of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” became today’s Saturday Single.