Posts Tagged ‘Fred Darian’

Sitting Near The Bottom

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, Odd, Pop and I spent some time looking at records that over the years on July 8 had perched at No. 100 in the Billboard Hot 100 and at the bottom of the magazine’s Bubbling Under section. The exercise brought our attention back to the music of B.W. Stevenson, which provided two CDs’ worth of new listening and fodder for a few posts in this space.

I don’t expect anything quite as cool as that to come out of a similar exploration for three charts released on July 31 in the 1960s and 1970s, but we’ll see what we find.

We’ll start in 1961, when the No. 100 record was a lugubrious bit of wedding bell doo-wop by a New York-based R&B group called the Van Dykes. “The Bells Are Ringing” had been released in 1958 on the King label and went nowhere; this release, on the Deluxe label, would climb one more spot, to No. 99, before disappearing. (Earlier in 1961, “Gift Of Love,” a re-release on the Guardian Angel label of a recording that had been released on the Spring label in 1960, had done a little better, climbing to No. 91.)

Parked at No. 120, the bottom of the Bubbling Under section on July 31, 1961, was “Johnny Willow” by Fred Darian, the ludicrous tale of a World War II infantryman who, if I hear the record correctly, helped hold off the enemy while holding a letter to his girl in his left hand and his rifle in his right hand. The record, which accelerates alarmingly to an almost tongue-twisting speed, eventually spent one week in the Hot 100, making it to No. 96. It was Darian’s second low-charting record based on things military; the Detroit native saw his spoken word “Battle of Gettysburg” spend one week at No. 100 in February 1961. (Darian was also a co-writer of “Mr. Custer,” Larry Verne’s No. 1 hit from 1960.)

And we’re off to 1965, when the No. 100 record on July 31 was a single recorded live that in ten weeks would peak at No. 5 (No. 2 R&B): “The ‘In’ Crowd” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. It was the sole Top Ten hit for the jazz pianist, but he’d put three more records into the Top 40 in the next year: “Hang On Sloopy” went to No. 11, a cover of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” went to No. 29, and “Wade In The Water” went to No. 19. Lewis’ 20th and last record in or near the Hot 100 was “What’s The Name Of This Funk (Spiderman),” which went to No. 69 in 1976.

The Bubbling Under section that July 31 was thirty-five records deep, and sitting at the very bottom of that section was a record by young English singer who in a little bit more than a year would become a television and recording star. “What Are We Going To Do” by David Jones is a lightweight record that to my ears owes a lot to Herman’s Hermits. In a couple of weeks it would move into the Hot 100 and peak at No. 93. Starting in September 1966, Jones would be better known as Davy, and with the other three members of the Monkees, would star in the hit television show and record and release numerous hit records, including three that went to No. 1.

In her first hit record, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (No. 1 pop and country, 1968), Jeannie C. Riley took on small-town hypocrisy. In 1971, in the last record she had in or near the Hot 100, Riley took on cohabitation, telling her beau in “Good Enough To Be Your Wife” that shacking up wasn’t gonna happen. The record was at No. 100 as July 1971 ended, and it would only move up three more notches before disappearing. On the country chart, however, “Good Enough To Be Your Wife” went to No. 7, the sixth and final record Riley put into the country Top Ten.

The horn band Ides of March had a No. 2 hit in early 1970 with “Vehicle” and kept throwing singles at the wall for the next eighteen months or so, hoping something would stick. Nothing really did, with “Superman,” the immediate follow-up to “Vehicle” doing the best, getting to No. 64. In the last days of July 1971, the band’s “Tie-Dye Princess” was parked at No. 124, smack on the bottom of the Bubbling Under section. It would get up to No. 113, and it was the last time the Ides of March would be in or near the Hot 100. (The single version of “Tie-Dye Princess doesn’t seem to be available at YouTube; you can find the eleven-minute album track here.)