Posts Tagged ‘Diana Ross’

‘Where’

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Today, we’re going to open our textbook and take on the third portion of a project we’re calling Journalism 101, looking for tracks that have the word “where” in their titles. And it has to be a stand-alone word; “nowhere,” “somewhere,” “anywhere” and all the other possible compound words won’t cut it.

The first run through the RealPlayer nets us 947 tracks. But we lose a number of entire albums (except, in some cases, the title tracks): Where It All Begins by the Allman Brothers Band, Come To Where I’m From by Joseph Arthur, Where Is Love by Bobby Caldwell, Eva Cassidy’s Somewhere, Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Somewhere My Love by Ray Conniff & The Singers, Bo Diddley’s Where It All Began, and that just gets us into the D’s with so much more of the alphabet to go until we run into Bobby Womack’s Home Is Where The Heart Is.

Lots of titles with those compound words are culled as well, including six versions of “Somewhere My Love.” (I also have ten versions of the tune under the title “Lara’s Theme.”) We also lose four versions of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” twelve versions of the Beatles’ “Here, There & Everywhere,” five versions of “Somewhere In The Night,” and more that I won’t list here.

But there are still plenty of titles to choose from, so let’s look at four:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not so subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

More than six years ago, I looked at Oscar Brown’s song “Brother Where Are You” and wrote:

The tune is familiar to me – and others of my vintage, I assume – because of its inclusion by Johnny Rivers in his 1968 masterpiece Realization. In those environs, the song became less a plaint about racial injustice and more a call for economic and political justice. (It was, of course, not uncommon in the late 1960s and early 1970s for young, socially aware white men to call each other “brother” with no irony and little self-consciousness.)

That post (you can read it here) gave a listen to the first version recorded of the song – Abbey Lincoln’s take from her 1959 album Abbey is Blue – and to a few other versions as well, including Rivers’ cover. Sorting through the eleven versions of the tune here on the digital shelves, I’ve decided to offer the one I found most recently: Marlena Shaw’s typically eccentric version, released in 1967 on the Cadet label. From what I can find, it made no chart noise at all.

Thinking, as we were, of records that define seasons, as soon as the list of “where” tunes got to “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, I was back in the summer of 1972, working half-time as a custodian at St. Cloud State, taking long bicycle rides on Saturday evening, driving idly around town in my 1961 Falcon with Rick as a passenger, and wondering when I was going to meet someone. I doubt if I heard the record as a cautionary tale, advising me that love was hard and not always permanent, but if that thought had ever crossed my mind, I likely would have thought in response, “But even lost love is better than no love.” (I learned years ago that such a thought is better left to songwriters and poets than to anyone in real life.) The record was everywhere that summer, going to No. 5 on the Hot 100 and topping both the R&B and Easy Listening charts.

And lastly we’ll turn to Cat Stevens’ brilliant 1970 album, Tea For The Tillerman. “But tell me,” Stevens sings in the first track, “where do the children play?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course, but it’s one that I think runs with resignation through the entire album, through “Sad Lisa,” “On The Road To Findout,” “Father & Son” and all the rest. At least that’s what I hear these days. Back in 1971, when I heard “Wild World” on the radio and caught up with the rest of the album over the next few years, the lost loves, the fragile women, the quests for place and knowledge all seemed so utterly romantic. Perhaps the resignation I hear is only the echo of being sixty-four, with eighteen so far in the past as to be unknowable. In any event, “Where Do The Children Play” is still lovely and forever haunting.

Some No. 10s From November 20

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

“Hmm,” I thought this morning as I scanned the Billboard Top Ten from November 20, 1965, and my eye fell on the listing for “You’re the One” by the Vogues. “I’m not sure I know that one.”

And I wandered off to YouTube, where I learned that I did, of course, know “You’re the One,” which went to No. 4. I had just never connected it with the Vogues. And that got me to wondering for a moment about how many records from the years, say, 1960 to 1980 that I know but that I’m not aware I know. It’s a thought that has no answer, unless I want to go line-by-line through the Hot 100 charts and run to YouTube every time a title seems unfamiliar to me.

That might be interesting for a while, but I imagine the task would eventually lapse into drudgery, and I have better ways to spend my time. This morning, for example, I’m going to invest a little bit of time in looking at the Billboard Hot 100 charts issued over the years on November 20. And given that I noticed “You’re the One” sitting at No. 10 in that 1965 chart, I thought I’d look at the records that were at No. 10 as well as noting which two records topped the separate charts.

My collection of Billboard charts starts in December 1954 and ends during the summer of 2004, a nearly fifty-year span. During that time, there were seven charts released on November 20; we’ll look at five of them and leave the charts from the 1990s to themselves.

The first chart released on November 20 came in 1961, when Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” was No. 1 and Dion’s ‘Runaround Sue” was sitting at No. 2 (after peaking at No. 1). The No. 10 single that week was “The Fly” by Chubby Checker. Another dance record in the spirit of Checker’s earlier singles, “The Twist,” “The Hucklebuck” and “Pony Time,” “The Fly” had peaked a week earlier at No. 7. I’ve known the top two records for years, of course, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard “The Fly” until this morning.

Four years later, in the Hot 100 for November 20, 1965, the top two singles are again familiar records: Sitting at No. 1 was “I Hear A Symphony” by the Supremes while Len Barry’s “1-2-3” was at its peak position of No. 2. This was, as I noted above, the chart in which I came across “You’re the One.” The video I found at YouTube is notable for the inclusion every few seconds of young ladies’ graduation pictures from the mid-1960s. I didn’t know those girls, but I knew girls with clothing and hair styles just like theirs.

Unsurprisingly, as I look at the Hot 100 from November 20, 1971, I see a lot of familiar titles. Topping the chart during that week was Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” and sitting just behind it was Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” which had been No. 1 the week before. I knew both of those, loving Hayes’ single and not totally disliking Cher’s. I was, however, pretty dismissive of the single sitting at No. 10 that week: “Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds. My scorn was likely a product of my slow shift away from Top 40 toward album rock, which accelerated that autumn. Now, listening forty years later without that purity/snobbery filter in place, “Yo-Yo” – which had already peaked at No. 3 by November 20 – is a pretty good single.

Another five years went by before a Hot 100 came out on November 20, and the top two records on that date in 1976 were “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart at No. 1 and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot at No. 2. The Stewart single has made me cringe since the first time I heard it, and the Lightfoot single, which went no higher, still has my admiration. At No. 10 that week was “Do You Feel Like We Do,” the third hit – if I read my Joel Whitburn books accurately – from the massively popular Frampton Comes Alive album that spent ten weeks at No. 1. The label for the 45 of “Do You Feel Like We Do” says the record clocks in at 7:19 (which may or may not be accurate). The link here is to the full track, which runs more than fourteen minutes.

By the time we hit our fifth and last November 20 chart, we’re into 1982 and into a time when I wasn’t hearing everything that hit the charts. I knew the top two records of the week: “Up Where We Belong,” the duet between Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, was at No. 1, and Lionel Richie’s “Truly,” which would go to No. 1, was sitting at No. 2. Those two were inescapable that late autumn, but I’m not sure I’ve ever before heard the record that was at its peak position of No. 10: “Muscles” by Diana Ross. Listening this morning, I don’t know that I really missed anything.

Chart Digging: March 17, 1973

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Looking back, there was a question I never asked.

It was early in the autumn of 1974, and – as was my habit – I was on campus early, right around seven o’clock. I don’t remember when my first class of the day was, but I’d take at least an hour, maybe more, to sip some coffee, read the Minneapolis paper and greet other folks from The Table as they stopped by before or between classes.

And every day for the first few weeks of that autumn, a young woman with dark blonde hair would come into the same area of the snack bar and settle at a table near the jukebox. Every day, she’d put a quarter into the machine and punch the buttons for just one song. Every day, she’d sit at her table and listen as Diana Ross made her way through Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache.”

And every day, after the record ended, she’d sit for a few minutes more and then gather her books and leave.

Eventually, as often happens between strangers who see each other every day, she’d nod and give me a half-smile as she arrived or as she departed. We began to talk, briefly at first. Then one day, instead of sitting alone at her own table, she sat at the long table with me. Over the next few weeks, she became a regular at The Table. And she quit starting her day with “Good Morning Heartache.”

We were friends. I think she wanted more, but my hopes were elsewhere that autumn. Still, she and a friend of hers were frequently at The Table through October, taking part in the good-natured needling and the sometimes ribald chatter. Then my quarter ended abruptly at the end of October, and I spent November at home.

When I came back to school in December, she was gone. Back to the Twin Cities after an unanticipated twist in her life, my other friends told me. As far as I know, no one ever heard from her again. And I still sometimes wonder, thirty-seven years later, why she listened to “Good Morning Heartache” every morning for those first weeks that autumn. I probably should have asked her.

The other thing I wonder about, and this is far less important, is why the Diana Ross tune was in the Atwood Center jukebox in the autumn of 1974 when its time in the charts had been in early 1973. I was digging around in the Billboard charts last evening, and saw that “Good Morning Heartache” had been at No. 34 in the Hot 100 in the chart that came out on March 17, 1973, thirty-eight years ago today. The record – from the soundtrack to Lady Sing the Blues – would go no higher and would fall out of the Hot 100 four weeks later. Why in the world would it show up in the Atwood jukebox seventeen months after that? (Readers with a good memory for unimportant detail will recall that I wondered the same thing about Shawn Phillips’ “We,” which topped out at No. 89 in January 1973 and then showed up in the Atwood jukebox during that same autumn of 1974.)

I have no answers for any questions this morning, so I think we’ll just move a little further down the Hot 100 from March 17, 1973.

That brings me to a group I’d never heard about until this week: Cymande, described by Joel Whitburn as an “Afro-rock band from the West Indies.” The octet’s single, “The Message,” was at No. 48 and would go no higher (though it went to No. 22 on the R&B chart). The only other single from Cymande that Whitburn lists in Top Pop Singles is “Bra,” a tune that All-Music Guide calls the band’s reaction to the women’s movement. It topped out at No. 102 during the summer of 1973. “The Message” is a pretty good single, funky and danceable, and it’s one I wish I’d heard years ago.

Another single with a West Indies tinge to it was sitting at No. 61 back in 1973, and it came from an unlikely source. “Follow Your Daughter Home” by the Guess Who – another tune I’d never heard until this week, as far as I know – has an undeniable and catchy island tinge to it. I would imagine that listeners and radio folks had no real idea what to do with the record, as it never got any higher in the chart. The band’s next charting single was “Star Baby,” which sounded a lot more like the Guess Who that scored seven Top 40 hits in 1969 and 1970 alone. It’s too bad “Follow Your Daughter Home” didn’t do better. It would be fun to hear it once in a while on the oldies stations instead of listening to “These Eyes” again.

From No. 61 we’re going to drop to the Bottom 10 from the March 17, 1973 chart, as there are a few gems sitting in those depths.

Circus was a rock quintet from Cleveland that got one record into the Hot 100, and it’s a great one. “Stop, Look & Listen” spent four weeks on the chart without getting any higher than No. 91, which is where it was thirty-eight years ago today. Beyond that, the only thing I really know about Circus is that “Stop, Look & Listen” should have done much, much better than it did.

One of the nine-day wonders of early 1973 was the racy movie “Last Tango in Paris,” featuring major star Marlon Brando and the relatively unknown (in the U.S., at least) Maria Schneider. I’ve never seen the movie but I’ve got the wonderful soundtrack by jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri. And in early 1973, a cover of the film’s main theme by Herb Alpert and the TJB hung around the lower portions of the Hot 100. It sat at No. 94 in the March 17 chart and would peak at No. 77. It’s a good record, but it doesn’t come near to having the power of Barbieri’s original. (Another trumpet cover of the movie’s main theme, by Doc Severinsen, made a run at the Hot 100 in late March 1973 but never got any higher than No. 103.)

Our last tune of the day finds us at No. 98 with the record that gave Dennis Yost & The Classics IV their next-to-last stay on the chart. “Rosanna,” a decent country-ish ballad, was in its second week in the Hot 100, and would be there one more week, rising to No. 95. Two years later, Yost and The Classics IV would get to No. 94 with “My First Day Without Her.” I’ve never heard that last one, but “Rosanna” was okay. There have been worse records that have gone higher, but then again, there have been better ones that never got to No. 95. Whichever way you look at it, “Rosanna” is a pretty good listen.