Posts Tagged ‘B.B. King’

Chart Digging: September 6, 1969

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I’ve told the story before, how sometime in late August or early September 1969, I went to the basement and took Grandpa’s old RCA radio from the shelf near Dad’s workbench, dusted it off and took it upstairs.

I wanted my KDWB and my WLS (and a little bit of nearby WJON) in my room.

I don’t know the date of that bit of appropriation. But it was right around this time, and a look at the Billboard Top Ten from forty-two years ago today finds a lot of familiar records:

“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
“Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies
“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Get Together” by the Youngbloods
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon
“Lay Lady Lay” by Bob Dylan
“Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night
“Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” by Tom Jones

The only one there that escapes my memory is the Tom Jones tune. I played it on YouTube this morning – as I no doubt have before – and it’s pleasant but it isn’t ingrained in my memories, as are the other nine on that list.

I have no doubt that I’ve looked at that Top Ten – or one from a week so close as to be nearly identical – but I don’t think I’ve ever dug into the deeper parts of the Billboard chart from that week. There are riches there:

Clarence Reid was an R&B singer and songwriter from Georgia who had three records reach the Billboard Hot 100, two in 1969 and one in 1974. (Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles notes that Reid also recorded “X-rated party records” as Blowfly.) During this week in 1969, Reid’s most successful record was sitting at No. 45 on its way up the chart. “Nobody But You Babe” would perch at No. 40 for two weeks. (It would get to No. 7 on the R&B chart, Reid’s best performance on that chart.) Whitburn says that the record – a funky treat – is an answer record to the Isley Brother’s “It’s Your Thing,” which had gone to No. 2 earlier in 1969.

A little further down, we find the Cascades. The group from San Diego is likely best known for its early 1963 hit, “Rhythm of the Rain,” which went to No. 3. In the six years since, the Cascades had placed five records in the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section, with the best-performing of those being “The Last Leaf,” which went to No. 60 in the spring of 1963. As September 1969 began, the group’s lightweight “Maybe The Rain Will Fall” was at No. 63. It would get to No. 61 before falling off the chart; it was the last single by the group to make the chart.

Most folks who know Billy Preston’s gospel anthem “That’s The Way God Planned It” know the live version from 1971’s Concert For Bangla Desh. Few, I imagine, have heard the studio version, which was the title track to Preston’s only album released on the Apple label. The track was actually listed on the album as “That’s The Way God Planned It (Parts 1 & 2),” and I’m assuming it was Part 1 that was released as the single. (As it happens, that wasn’t the case. See the note from reader and pal Yah Shure at the bottom.) Forty-two years ago this week, that single – which I like a lot – was at No. 65, falling from its peak position of No. 62. (The single would be rereleased in the summer of 1972, after the album The Concert For Bangla Desh and the accompanying film came out, but it would only go to No. 65.) It’s worth noting that the bulk of Preston’s Apple album was produced by George Harrison, and Harrison, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Ginger Baker were among the musicians backing Preston.

In 1969, José Feliciano was still trying to replicate the success he’d had with his cover of the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” which had gone to No. 3 the year before. “Hi-Heel Sneakers” had reached No. 25 in the autumn of 1968, but several singles after that failed to get any higher than No. 50. In early September 1969, Feliciano’s “Rain” (not the Beatles’ tune) was sitting at No. 76. A sweet but feathery record, “Rain” would go no higher. Its flipside, a Latinized version of the Lennon-McCartney tune “She’s A Woman,” went to No. 103. Feliciano continued to release singles into 1975, but none of them went any higher than No. 83. (In the late 1990s, Feliciano’s 1970 version of “Feliz Navidad” would go to No. 70; it continues to get holiday airplay to this day.)

From 1957’s “Be Careful With A Fool” (No. 95) through 1989’s collaboration with U2, “When Love Comes To Town” (No. 68), B.B. King put forty-seven records in the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section. And starting with 1951’s “3 O’Clock Blues” (No. 1 for five weeks) and ending with 1985’s “Into The Night” (No. 15), he put sixty-eight records into the R&B Top 40. There’s not much to say in this limited space after that, except to note that in early September 1969, his “Get Off My Back Woman” was sitting at No. 100. A bluesy joy, the record would peak at No. 74 on the pop chart and at No. 32 on the R&B chart.

Just about two years before he reached No. 6 with “Do You Know What I Mean,” Lee Michaels showed up on the chart for the first time with a record that had a somewhat similar sound as his future hit. The Los Angeles native’s “Heighty Hi” was at No. 114 in its first week in the Bubbling Under section forty-two years ago this week; it would climb a little bit more in the next four weeks, peaking at No. 106. From where I listen, it could easily have done a lot better.

A Case Of Senioritis

Friday, November 19th, 2010

As the third week in November of 1970 spooled out, I was right back where I had been during the last two Novembers – going to classes and then hanging around wrestling practice as a manager at St. Cloud Tech High School. My main duty as wrestling manager was to maintain the scorebook and the statistics, which meant that during matches, I sat at the table at the front of the gym with the scoreboard operator.

In addition, I dispensed aspirin for minor bruises and contusions, wrapped vulnerable thumbs and ankles with an armor of athletic tape, treated raw spots – we called them “strawberries” – on arms and legs with a viciously painful spray called Nitro-Tan, and spent a lot of time sitting and doing nothing. And doing nothing got boring, as did watching wrestling practice. So I got in the habit of bringing a book to practice and sitting on the small gymnastics mat on the side of the wrestling gym, reading science fiction and astronomy. I was a little bit bored with wrestling, and that season marked the seventh out of eight sports seasons in my high school life that I’d spent as a manager for an athletic team. I was getting tired of the locker room and was wondering if I had any options anywhere else.

I’d not focused entirely on managing during high school. I’d played one year in Concert Band, and I was in my second year in Concert Choir and my third year in the orchestra. And as the holidays approached, I would be a member of the ten-voice Carolers, who dressed in something approaching Victorian costumes and performed frequently during December around the St. Cloud area. I’d miss a few wrestling practices for that, which I’d cleared with the coach, but I wouldn’t miss a match.

Still, I was a little unsettled, anxious to try something new. I was being adventurous in my social life, seeing a number of sophomore girls, although the young lady I preferred was directing her attentions elsewhere. (I told the story here and here.) But I wanted something new in the rest of my life, and I was looking.

It didn’t go unnoticed. The wrestling coach – whom we called “Kiff” and who lived less than a block away from us on Kilian Boulevard – told me the following spring, “I could see your attention wandering.” I began to apologize, but he waved it off. “It’s pretty normal for seniors. You’d been there two years and you begin to wonder what else there is to do. Most kids, when that happens, quit what they were doing and go off. You hung in there, and I appreciate that.”

As it happened, come late January and for the rest of the season, my “hanging in there” required some flexibility from both Kiff and the English teacher who directed the winter play. On a whim, I auditioned for a part in Tech’s presentation of the Woody Allen comedy, Don’t Drink The Water, and, to my astonishment, I was cast as the comedy lead. That would be in January, though, after 1970 turned into 1971. As wrestling season got underway, I had no idea what to do, and that gave me one more thing to ponder during the evenings I spent in my room with the radio playing.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten I would have heard during the third week of November in 1970, as I was assessing my options.

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom

Boy, even the soul and R&B selections there are a little bit lightweight, but it’s a pretty good Top Ten. I don’t know what the critical assessment of the No. 1 song would be these days, but given its time and place associations for me, the Partridge Family’s hit is a keeper. And so are most of the rest of those. But “Indiana Wants Me” has not aged well, and I have never liked “Montego Bay” although I have no idea why.

Other stuff waited lower down on the chart, of course. This week’s exploration takes place entirely in the bottom half of the Hot 100 and in its subbasement.

B.B. King had been a blues star and a presence on the Billboard R&B chart for years, first hitting that Top Ten in 1955, and he would continue to do so into 1981. His appearances in the Hot 100 were nearly as frequent, according to the list at All-Music Guide. But only a handful of his singles – six in all – reached the Top 40. In early 1970, King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” had peaked at No. 15, his best showing ever. And in the third week of November, his “Chains and Things” was moving up the charts; it would peak at No. 45 in the Hot 100 and would climb to No. 6 on the R&B chart.

 

Back in July, when several commenters agreed with my reservations about Barbra Streisand’s post-1970 work (especially 1976’s A Star Is Born), another commenter noted that those who criticize Babs are likely too young to appreciate her genius. I’ll dissent, of course, on being too young: I was listening to Barbra Streisand in my living room sometime in the mid-1960s after my sister bought her 1966 album Color Me Barbra. I liked it. And I generally liked Streisand’s work up until the mid-1970s, when – in my view – her ego outgrew her considerable talent. During the third week of November 1970, Streisand’s single “Stoney End,” which I liked a lot, was sitting at No. 59, having leaped eleven places from the previous week. It would go on to peak at No. 6 and be the third of Streisand’s eventual twenty-one Top 40 hits (through 2003).

Earlier in 1970, Tyrone Davis had a hit with the brilliant “Turn Back The Hands of Time,” which went to No. 3 in the Top 40 and spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. It was Davis’ third Top 40 hit and his fourth Top Ten hit on the R&B chart. He’d have two more Top 40 hits and at least twenty-six more records on the R&B chart (depending on the accuracy of the AMG lists) through 1983. In November 1970, “Let Me Back In” peaked at No. 58 in the Hot 100 and at No. 12 on the R&B chart and was sitting at No. 73 during the third week of that month.

It had been five years since Little Anthony & The Imperials had reached the Top 40. In 1964 and 1965, the group had five Top 40 hits, three of them in the Top Ten, following a pair of Top 40 hits in 1958 and 1960. Other singles made it into the Hot 100 during the lean years from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1965 to 1970, but I’m not sure how many. I do know that during the third week of November 1970, “Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You)” was at No. 96 and in its first week in the Hot 100. From what I can find, it would sit there one more week before spending a week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then disappearing completely.

Sitting just below the Hot 100, we find Desmond Dekker and his version of the Jimmy Cliff song “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” at No. 103. Dekker had reached No. 9 during the summer of 1969 with “Israelites,” which was credited to Desmond Dekker & The Aces. “You Can Get It . . .” didn’t technically make the pop chart; the record sat at No. 103 for one more week, then fell to No. 107 for a week before falling out entirely. Two years later, according to AMG, writer Cliff used the same rhythm track to cut his own version of the song for the soundtrack to The Harder They Come.

I know absolutely nothing about the New Young Hearts, nor does AMG, really. The only thing certain is that the group recorded for the Zea label and released one killer track, “The Young Hearts Get Lonely Too.” Forty years ago this week, the single was sitting at No. 123 in Bubbling Under portion of the chart, having moved up one slot from the week before. A week later, the record was gone. It deserved far, far better.

See you tomorrow.

(Incorrcect clip replaced since first posted.)