Posts Tagged ‘Booker T & The MG’s’

Saturday Single No. 391

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

What with the brain moving in slow motion this morning and the Texas Gal having secured my promise that I will help bag raked leaves before noon, it’s time to lean on a favorite crutch and play Games With Numbers. Today’s date, 5/3, becomes No. 53, and we’re off to find out what records were at No. 53 on May 3 from, oh, let’s do 1970 through 1973 and get four records from which to choose a Saturday Single. (As we tend to do here, we’ll note the No. 1 records from those weeks as we fly by.)

Landing in 1970, we find ourselves listening to a slice of Philly soul from Eddie Holman, who’s sitting at No. 53 with the double-sided single, “Don’t Stop Now/Since I Don’t Have You.” The A-side is a decent piece of Philly soul on ABC – an older version had been released four years earlier on Parkway and bubbled under at No. 104 – backed with a good cover of the Skyliners’ 1959 hit. The two-sided record, which looks in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles as if it were Holman’s follow-up to “Hey There Lonely Girl,’ (a No. 2 hit in early 1970) was on its way to No. 48. The No. 1 record that week was “ABC” by the Jackson 5.”

Perched at No. 53 a year later was the final charting single from Booker T & The MG’s: “Melting Pot.” A funky and slinky workout with plenty of room for all four musicians to shine, the single was an edit or an excerpt from a longer piece that was the title track and opener to the group’s 1971 album, Melting Pot. The single was on its way to No. 48, the eighteenth and – as I noted – last single the group would place in or near the Billboard Hot 100. (The best-performing of those singles had been the first, the iconic “Green Onions,” which went to No. 3 in 1962.) Sitting at No. 1 during the first week of May in 1971was Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World.”

A year later, we find the No. 53 slot occupied by the sweet and atmospheric “Walk In The Night” by Jr. Walker& The All Star. The record, which was on its way to No. 46 that week, is one that I featured a couple of years ago, and as I listen to it again this morning, it still doesn’t sound anything like 1972 to me. “Walk In The Night” was the next-to-last of twenty-three records that Walker placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1965 and 1973. Sitting in the top spot of the Hot 100 during the first week in May 1972 was Roberta Flack’s massive hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

And we close this little exercise with a look at the first chart of May in 1973, where we find at No. 53 a brilliant bit of Philly soul: The Stylistics’ “Break Up To Make Up.” The plaint about the “game for fools” had peaked four weeks earlier at No. 5, the fourth of five eventual Top Ten hits for the group, who would in the end put seventeen records in or near the Hot 100 in a five-year period (1971-76). Their best-performing single would be “You Make Me Feel Brand New” in early 1974. And sitting at No. 1 during the first week of May 1973 was “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando & Dawn.

So we have four sweet pieces of soul/R&B to choose from this morning. I’m tempted by the Jr. Walker track, but we just listened to it here two years ago, and even though blog years seem to run on a different track than real-time years, that’s just too recent. So I popped over to Amazon to find an mp3 of “Melting Pot,” as the single edits available at YouTube were in pretty sad shape. And success there – and I can do no more than hope that the single version offered there is the same as the U.S. single version from 1971 and that the 45 jacket used in the video is the one that was used in the U.S. – means that “Melting Pot” by Booker T & The MG’s is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Green’

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

So today, in the fourth installment of Floyd’s Prism, we come to “Green,” the “G.” in the famous mnemonic for recalling the colors of the spectrum: “Roy G. Biv.”

The RealPlayer provides a total of 576 mp3s to sort. The first tracks to be trimmed are the sixteen covers of 1960s folk from the fine 1999 collection Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the ’60s and the thirteen covers from a similar 2009 album, The Village: A Celebration Of The Music Of Greenwich Village.

We also lose many, if not all, tracks from other albums: The Stone Poneys’ Evergreen, Vol. 2, Dana Wells’ The Evergreen, Steel Mill’s Green Eyed God, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River, Dar Williams’ The Green World, Leo Kottke’s Greenhouse, the Pete Best Band’s Hayman’s Green (yes, that Pete Best; it’s a pretty decent album from 2008), the bluesy Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, the Jayhawks’ Tomorrow the Green Grass and a few others, including Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green, an album featured here not long ago that was made up mostly of home recordings from the early 1970s and released in 2006.

We set aside multiple albums by Al Green and country singer Pat Green, and single albums from songwriter Ellie Greenwich, the 1960s groups Green and Evergreen Blue Shoes, and a 2010 album by a European electropop duo called the Green Children.

We also lose tracks by performers Barbara Greene, Cal Green, Eli Green (with Mississippi Fred McDowell), Grant Green, the Greenwoods, Jackie Green, Johnny Green & The Greenmen, Judy Green, the little known R. Green (of R. Green & Turner, who recorded two blues sides for the J&M Fulbright label in Los Angeles in 1948), Rudy Greene, Rudy Green & His Orchestra, Lorne Green, the marvelously named Slim Green & The Cats From Fresno and, of course, Norman Greenbaum.

And a few songs fall by the wayside because of their titles: Jackie DeShannon’s “The Greener Side,” five mp3s titled “Evergreen” (some with numbers attached and none of them the 1976 Barbra Streisand record), Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Greenland Whale Fisheries,” Tony Rice’s “Greenlight on the Southern,” a couple versions of “Greensleeves,” three of “Greenback Dollar,” and six tracks with “Greenwood” in their titles, including the wonderful 1970 single “Greenwood, Mississippi” by Little Richard.

But that leaves us many titles yet to work with. We’ll start with a country favorite of mine from 1993.

I didn’t know about the tune in 1993, of course, as I rarely listened to country music then. (A work friend of mine in those days suggested I give a Brooks & Dunn album a listen; I returned it to him regretfully, not yet ready for boot-scootin’.) But come the year 2000, with the Texas Gal on the scene, I began to catch up at least a little on what I’d been missing. And one evening, as we were passing time watching country music videos on CMT, there came Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green.” The story of Billy Bob and Charlene and the tall green letters on the water tower amused me, and it touched memories of both summer weeks on my grandpa’s farm and of Gramps’ allegiance to John Deere farm equipment. I don’t follow country closely, but it’s on the radio and the CD player occasionally; it’s not nearly as foreign as it was, thanks mostly to the Texas Gal and at least in part to Diffie’s single (which went to No. 5 on the country chart and to No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100).

There are five versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Bitter Green” in the digital stacks: covers by Ronnie Hawkins, Tony Rice and fellow Canadian folk singer Valdy and studio and live versions by Lightfoot. I like them all but decided to go with Lightfoot’s version from his 1968 album, Back Here On Earth. At the time, Lightfoot was known mostly in the U.S. as a songwriter; his performing career was much stronger in Canada (and that imbalance remained until 1970 or so). “Bitter Green” and the story it tells are vintage Lightfoot: an easily embraced melody backed only by guitar and literate and clear lyrics. He’d go on to great critical and popular success in the 1970s and beyond, but many of his early recordings are still worth close listening. This is one of them.

Gods and Generals, a 2003 film based on a 1996 novel by Jeffrey Schaara, was focused, says Wikipedia, on “the life of Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” the God-fearing and militarily brilliant yet eccentric Confederate general.” I’ve not seen the film, and perhaps I should, but my interest in Gods and General this morning is the soundtrack, itself notable to me because Bob Dylan’s haunting “’Cross the Green Mountain” is its closing track. In her review of the soundtrack at All Music Guide, Heather Phares notes that Dylan’s contribution “sounds more contemporary than most of the rest of the album, but still has enough rustic warmth to complement it gracefully.” The video to which I’ve linked has a shorter version of the tune than does the soundtrack; the original version, which runs eight-plus minutes, is available on the soundtrack CD and on Dylan’s 2008 release, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8.

Although I try to dig up relatively rare and different tracks when I do sets like this – for Floyd’s Prism or the earlier March Of The Integers – there are times when familiar tracks simply demand to be included. Such is the case with “Green Onions” by Booker T. & The MG’s. The record – familiar and forever fresh – went to No. 3 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1962. In his 1989 book, The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh wrote that “Green Onions” is “what happens when the best backup band in the universe decides it’s time to get noticed.”

In early 2007, a Houston, Texas, music producer named Kevin Ryan went into his home studio and, as Dan Brekke of Salon wrote that April, “engineered a sort of retro mash-up of two of his favorite artists, Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss. . . . Ryan took the text from seven Seuss classics, including ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ and set them to original tunes that sounded like they were right off Dylan’s mid-’60s releases. He played all the instruments and sang all the songs in Dylan’s breathy, nasal twang. He registered a domain name, dylanhearsawho.com, and in February posted his seven tracks online, accompanied by suitably Photoshopped album artwork, under the title Dylan Hears A Who.” The Salon piece tells the tale of the copyright claims that followed from the folks who own the Dr. Seuss material, examines the copyright issues at hand and notes that the material is still widely available on the ’Net. That’s true, of course, at YouTube, where Ryan’s version of “Green Eggs & Ham” remains a delight.

When Joni Mitchell released Blue in 1971, the lyrics to “Little Green” must have seemed like typically elliptical Joni Mitchell lyrics, telling a story by circling around it with vague hints and references:

Born with the moon in Cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who’ve made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything’s warmer there
So you write him a letter and say, “Her eyes are blue”
He sends you a poem and she’s lost to you
Little green, he’s a non-conformer

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there’ll be sorrow

Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there’ll be sorrow

When one reads those lyrics now, in the light of Mitchell’s having given birth to a daughter in 1965 and giving her up for adoption – a tale that became public in 1993 – “Little Green” becomes a heart-breaking piece of work.

Chart Digging: What’s At No. 106?

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

In the midst of busyness, nothing has been planned for this space. So it’s time for Games With Numbers again. It’s October 6 – a date that all J.R.R. Tolkien obsessives will recognize as the day that Frodo was attacked under Weathertop, as I noted in a post three years ago – so I thought I would convert that to one number – No. 106 – and see what records were in that position in the Bubbling Under portion of the Billboard Hot 100 on October 6 through the years.

As we all know, just as odd, wonderful and rare creatures inhabit the deepest portions of the oceans, so do similar records sometimes swim in the Bubbling Under portions of the charts. It may be difficult to find some of the records so listed. Or we may find familiar tunes. Let’s dive and find out. I think we’ll hang around in the 1960s for this one.

Jimmy Jones was an Alabama-born R&B singer, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, who had two songs get close to the top of the chart in 1960: “Handy Man,” which went to No. 2, and “Good Timin’,” which went to No. 3. (The records reached No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, on the R&B chart.) But that was about the extent of Jones’ success. Four other singles listed by Whitburn either stalled in the lower levels of the Hot 100 or Bubbled Under. One of those was a rock ’n’ roll version of “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.” Another was the single that was sitting at No. 106 – its peak – during the first week of October 1960: “Itchin’” would be gone from the chart the next week, and after “I Told You So” went to No. 85 in early 1961, so would Jimmy Jones.

There’s an interesting bit of information on the Top Pop Singles entry on the Wanderers, an early 1960s R&B group. The Wanderers had two singles released on the Cub label in 1961, with “For Your Love” reaching No. 93 and “I’ll Never Smile Again” bubbling under at No. 107. In 1962, “There Is No Greater Love” was released on Cub and failed to reach even the lowest portion of the charts, but then, for some reason, the same track was released on MGM and it pushed a little further in the chart than had the two previous singles. A ballad with an odd introduction and an interesting arrangement, “There Is No Greater Love” was at No. 106 this week in 1962; it peaked at No. 88 and was the last chart appearance by the Wanderers.

It’s always fun to find a nifty track I’ve never heard before, and that was the case with the record that was at No. 106 during the first week of October 1964. Earlier in the year, Roger Miller had a No. 6 pop hit with “Dang Me,” a record that spent six weeks atop the country chart. In September of that year came an answer record, “Dern Ya” by Ruby Wright, who happened to be the daughter of country performers Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright. “Dern Ya” peaked at No. 103.*

The name of P.F. Sloan pops up often enough in tales and discographies from the 1960s that I should know a lot more about the man than I do. I’ve mentioned him four times over the more than four years I’ve been writing this blog: three times in connection with the Grass Roots, which he and Steve Barri created, and once as the writer of Barry McGuire’s 1965 hit, “Eve of Destruction.” Along with everything else, Sloan did have two mid-1960s singles that touched the charts. “The Sins Of A Family” was the first, a preachy attempt at raising social consciousness that was sitting at No. 106 in the Billboard chart for the week of October 9, 1965; the record would peak at No. 87. Sloan’s other chart appearance came in 1966, when “From A Distance” bubbled under for one week at No. 109.

Up to this point, our explorations of records at No. 106 have found performers without a great deal of chart success. That changes when we move ahead to 1966: Sitting at No. 106 during the week of October 6 that year was a funky instrumental called “My Sweet Potato” by Booker T & the MG’s. After the No. 3 success of “Green Onions” in 1962 (No. 1 on the R&B chart), the group – essentially the house band from Stax Records – released a series of singles that didn’t come close to reaching the same heights. “My Sweet Potato” was no different, as it peaked at No. 85 (No. 18 on the R&B chart). Eventually, between 1967 and 1969, the group got five more singles into the Top 40, two of them – “Hang ’Em High” and “Time Is Tight” – into the Top Ten. The final total for Booker T & the MG’s? Eighteen singles on the pop chart and twelves in the R&B Top 40.

I do love me some saxophone, so I was very pleased to see the title that was listed at No. 106 during the first week of October in 1968: “Harper Valley PTA” by King Curtis and the Kingpins. I’ve written about Curtis Ousley a few times and mentioned him many times here, so I don’t need to say much more except that, just as it’s fun to discover new-to-me records by new-to-me performers, it’s more fun to discover a new-to-me King Curtis track. “Harper Valley PTA” didn’t do very well in the charts, going to No. 93, but it’s a great slice of soul for a Thursday morning.

*Soon after I posted this, I learned at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart that Wright crossed over on September 27 at the age of ninety-seven. He and Wells were married October 30, 1937, and spent nearly seventy-four years together.

A Long-Ago Error Corrected: Thanks!

Monday, May 16th, 2011

We returned to St. Cloud yesterday – the Texas Gal and I – after a weekend jaunt to Madison, Wisconsin, the home of jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and his Mrs. As always, their hospitality was commendable: From bison chili on Friday evening through a tour of the Farmers’ Market and down Madison’s famed State Street on Saturday and on into a meal at Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub Saturday evening, it was a superb stay.

As happens when jb and I get together, we talked radio, sports, music and beer. In the latter category, I supplied a couple of brews from Minnesota: A six-pack sampler from the Brau Brothers Brewing Company, based in the small southwestern Minnesota town of Lucan, and an assortment from the August Schell Brewing Co. of New Ulm, Minnesota.

In exchange, jb offered some brews from Michigan, including a chance to sip on a Kentucky Breakfast Stout from the Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids. A mighty brew, indeed! He and I may disagree on a number of things – most notably football – but we both do respect noble brews.

As we took our chilly walk through downtown Madison, we made a couple of stops. One of those was at the Exclusive Company, a purveyor of CDs, vinyl records and things related. And jb helped me to undo a horrible decision from more than forty years ago.

I have likely related the tale before of how, one day in about 1971, I was rifling through the cut-out bin at the Woolworth’s store in St. Cloud’s Crossroads Center and came across a copy of McLemore Avenue, a 1970 tribute to the Beatles’ Abbey Road by Booker T and the MG’s.

I looked at the cover, which showed Booker T and the MG’s walking across Memphis’ McLemore Avenue in 1970 just as the Beatles had done on London’s Abbey Road a year earlier. I glanced at the list on the back: three medleys and a single track, all pulled from Abbey Road. And I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to hear music from Abbey Road, it should be the Beatles’ versions, not versions by some other band. And I put the LP back in the cut-out bin and left the store. Regrets followed quickly and have never gone away.

On Saturday, as we walked the aisles of the Exclusive Company, jb pulled from the immense CD inventory a sealed copy of McLemore Avenue, a reissue from this year that includes six bonus tracks of other Beatles’ tunes recorded during the mid- to late 1960s. That disc now resides here in St. Cloud, along with a few other CDs found in bargain bins there.

So, my thanks to jb for helping me correct a long-standing error. I’d salute him with the bottle of Kentucky Breakfast Stout he sent back to Minnesota with me, but I do need to function during the remainder of the day. On the other hand, Booker T and his pals are nearly as intoxicating, albeit in another way, so here they are – from McLemore Avenue – with a medley of “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”