Posts Tagged ‘Delfonics’

Chart Digging: October 30, 1971

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By the time the end of October rolled around in 1971, your narrator, in the midst of his first quarter of college, had realized a few things: First, he was likely going to fail chemistry and African history. Second, the young lady who sat next to him in sociology was kind of cute and was also a Minnesota Vikings fan. And third, he didn’t particularly like a lot of what he was hearing on the radio anymore.

As I’ve related before, I did fail the two courses, mostly because I didn’t know how to study; I’d never had to do so to get through high school. I did not fail sociology. I got a B, and by the end of the quarter, I was spending several evenings a week with the young lady who sat next to me. (That didn’t last, and it was my fault: I got nervous, never having had a girlfriend before, and I backed off abruptly when the quarter ended.)

As to the radio, I was getting tired of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” which by the end of October that year had been in the No. 1 spot (along with its flipside, “Reason To Believe’”) in the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. The rest of the Top Ten was:

“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts & Children” by the Carpenters
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon Plastic Ono Band
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement

I liked – and still like – the Lennon and Hayes singles. Some of the rest looks better from the distance of more than forty years than it sounded to me back then. I still dislike the singles from the Osmonds and (viscerally) from Joan Baez. If I heard the Free Movement single, it was only if I went to sleep with the radio set to Chicago’s WLS (where the record went to No. 2), as it doesn’t show up on the KDWB surveys collected at Oldiesloon. (Either Google search failed me here or, more likely, I failed to use it carefully, as the Free Movement record did chart in the 30s for two weeks at KDWB, as noted below by our pal Yah Shure.)

Looking deeper into that end-of-October Hot 100, I find – as I usually do when scanning old charts – some singles that I’m generally unfamiliar with even today. Would I have liked them forty-two years ago? I don’t know. I remember a general dissatisfaction with Top 40 during that first quarter of college. Maybe there was something else going on specific to that quarter, as I do recall numerous Top 40 tunes from 1972 with affection. But however I would have felt back then, as I dig in the lower depths of that Hot 100 today, I find some nice things I’ve never heard before.

Sitting right at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100 and No. 99 respectively, we find some nice vocal soul/R&B: “Walk Right Up To The Sun” by the Delfonics and “I Bet He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by the Intruders. The Delfonics’ single would peak at No. 81 and go to No. 13 on the R&B chart, while the Intruders’ record would peak at No. 92 and reach No. 20 on the R&B chart. Both groups obviously had better performing singles on both charts, and both probably had singles that were just better records, but to fresh ears forty-two years later, those are pretty good records.

The James Gang is a group that I gave little attention, and I’m not sure why. What I heard of the group in folks’ dorm rooms and at parties seemed too hard, too raucous, I think. Now, of course, it seems almost tame. The group’s “Midnight Man” was sitting at No. 94 at the end of October 1971, and it’s not at all what I would have expected from the James Gang; the eighteen-year-old whiteray would have found it much more accessible than he expected, had he heard it as it headed on its way to No. 80.

One of the constant presences in the budget bins at Woolworth’s and Musicland through the first half of the 1970s was the Beach Boys’ 1971 album, Surf’s Up. Its cover art puzzled me, with its depiction of the James Earle Fraser sculpture End Of The Trail as it might have been painted by Vincent Van Gogh. Every time I saw it, it baffled me, and it still does. The cognitive dissonance offered by the cover hid some music that perhaps I should have sampled; the single “Long Promised Road” is intriguing enough. It was sitting at No. 93 forty-two years ago, on its way to No. 89. (My bafflement and avoidance is not limited to Surf’s Up. Over the decades, that’s been my reaction to pretty much anything the group did after “Good Vibrations.” Maybe I need to go back and listen. On the other hand, I recall clearly my reaction of bemused indifference to Brian Wilson’s supposed epic Smile when it was released in 2004. I rarely sell CDs. I sold that one.)

Once the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had its hit single on the Liberty label – “Mr. Bojangles” went to No. 9 in early 1971 – the band moved to United Artists. And in the autumn of 1971, UA went into the group’s back catalog and released “Some Of Shelly’s Blues” as a single. Two years earlier (and before “Mr. Bojangles”), a Liberty single of the song – written by Mike Nesmith – had bubbled under at No. 106. The United Artists release did a little better but only a little, rising to No. 64. It likely deserved more attention.

I first encountered the Isley Brothers’ cover of “Spill The Wine” – the 1970 Eric Burdon & War hippie dream anthem – when I came across the Isleys’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back. I was skeptical. And, as I scanned the Hot 100 from the end of October 1971 and noticed the entry at No. 49, I recalled that skepticism. Yes, the Isleys at the time covered some iconic singles and made them their own – “Summer Breeze,” “Listen To The Music,” “Lay Lady Lay” and others – but “Spill The Wine”? I should have known better. The Isleys gave melody to the recited portion of the Burdon single and took it from there. The record went no higher, but on the R&B chart, it went to No. 14. (The video embedded below is from the album. Scans of the 45 label show a running time of 2:40.)