Last week, we took a look at the top singles listed by St. Cloud’s WJON in its Starship Sampler dates February 6, 1976. (The sampler images were, as I noted, a gift from regular reader Yah Shure.) Today, we’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” on the back of the sampler and see what we can glean from that list. (The scan is here).
Here are the top ten albums (with a couple of titles corrected).
Desire by Bob Dylan Fool For The City by Foghat Alive by Kiss History by America Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates Captured Angel by Dan Fogelberg Face The Music by the Electric Light Orchestra Eric Carmen Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon Chicago IX, Chicago’s Greatest Hits
That would be a decent seven hours or so of listening, with a few caveats from my side of the speakers. Seven of those records eventually showed up in the vinyl stacks; the ones that did not were the ones by Foghat, Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra. (No Foghat or Kiss ever showed up among the vinyl; three other albums by ELO eventually did, and the Foghat album is present on the digital shelves.)
So, are any of those essential as albums in these precincts? As albums, I see only one: Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a little startling to see a 1973 album on a 1976 survey, given that the entry of the re-release of “She’s Gone” into the Billboard Hot 100 was still five months in the future, but from the sweet “When The Morning Comes” through the funk-to-rock-to-hoedown epic “Everytime I Look At You,” it’s a joy.
Dylan’s Desire comes close, missing the cut because of the eleven-minute tale of gangster Joey Gallo. So does the Paul Simon album, missing the cut for no particular reason.
But perhaps, as we did the other day, it might be instructive to check out the 3,825 tracks in the iPod and see how well these albums are represented. Five tracks show up from the Hall & Oates album: “When The Morning Comes,” “Had I Known You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man),” and, of course, “She’s Gone.”
I find four tracks from Still Crazy After All These Years: The title track, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and two duets, “Gone At Last” with Phoebe Snow and “My Little Town” with Art Garfunkel. The only track present from Dylan’s Desire is “Black Diamond Bay,” though I may find room for “Hurricane.” America’s hits album is represented by “A Horse With No Name” and “Don’t Cross The River,” and I could throw “Sandman” in there.
As to the Electric Light Orchestra album, the iPod holds versions that appear to be single edits of “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” and the Chicago hits album is sort of represented there: I have the single version of “Make Me Smile” in the iPod, but I got it from the CD release of Chicago, the silver album. (The album offered edits of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” but I go with the full-length versions.)
Shut out on the iPod are the albums by Kiss, Foghat, Carmen and Fogelberg.
I’m not at all sure what that proves, but I find it interesting that the Hall & Oates album pleases me these days more than the Dylan, a judgment that I’m not sure I’d have made twenty or thirty years ago.
Here’s “Had I Known You Better Then” from Abandoned Luncheonette.
With the mp3 player plugged into the CD player atop a small cabinet, I shuffle and weave, play air piano and guitar, and I cue unseen drummers, violin players and horn sections. And I do all this while removing and shelving clean dishes from the dishwasher and then replacing them with the dishes yet to be washed.
The tunes on the mp3 player continue to be the 228 that were in last year’s Ultimate Jukebox, augmented by another hundred or so records or album sides. Some of the tracks aren’t truly suited for dancing: The second side of Shawn Phillips’ Second Contribution popped up the other afternoon and instead of whirling through the gyrations I call dance, I stood in one spot for a few minutes with my eyes closed, absorbing Phillips’ dense creation while holding an empty Mason quart jar.
There are a few tunes on the player that call for gentle motion, soft songs sometimes laden with memories as varied as midnight alone in a city filled with strangers or the fluttering of a seventh-grade heart during the first slow dance ever. But most of the tracks in the player get me moving from one end of the small kitchen to the other, with wooden spoons filling in for a conductor’s baton (think “MacArthur Park”) and a measuring cup being a make-shift substitute for an air chimes mallet (the instrumental break on “Photograph”).
And as I made my way across the floor the other day, I boogied and shuffled to the call and response of Daryl Hall and John Oates – “She’s gone!” “She’s gone!” “She’s gone!” “She’s gone!” – and I wondered why none of the duo’s other singles have ever made me want to dance. Not only do they not make me want to dance, they don’t even make me want to hear them again.
That reaction puts me in a significant minority. Between 1976 – when “Sara Smile” went to No. 4 and a second release of “She’s Gone” went to No. 7 – and 2005, when their version of “Ooh Child” went to No. 19 on the Adult Contemporary chart, Hall & Oates were a powerhouse: thirty-four records in the Billboard Hot 100, sixteen of them in the Top Ten and six making it to No. 1. Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles ranks Hall & Oates as the fourth most successful act of the 1980s (behind Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna) and the thirty-fifth most successful of all time.
And I missed it and still don’t get it. None of the singles that came along in the late 1970s and through the 1980s gave me any reason at all to go buy an album. I certainly heard all of the hits, or at least most of them: The listing in Top Pop Singles shows nothing from the Top Ten that’s unfamiliar, and if some of the stuff that placed a little lower is hazy in memory, well, there were a few years in there when I wasn’t listening to pop radio at all. My point is that I know what Hall & Oates recorded and released, and while none of their singles ever made me switch to another station in annoyance, neither did any of them – save “She’s Gone” – ever grab hold of my ear and say: “Listen to this!”
I’ve tried to be careful here and make reference to the duo’s singles, because there are a few tracks hidden on Hall & Oates’ first second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, that I enjoy greatly, most notably “Had I Known You Better Then” and “I´m Just A Kid (Don´t Make Me Feel Like A Man).” The album was produced by Atlantic’s Arif Mardin and came out in 1973, with “She’s Gone” being released as a single in early 1974 and getting only to No. 80. The duo moved on to RCA Victor, with the success there in early 1976 of “Sara Smile” prompting Atlantic’s summertime re-release of “She’s Gone.” There was one more Atlantic release on the charts: “It’s Uncanny” went to No. 80 in the summer of 1977.
So “She’s Gone” remains among my favorite records, and as well as pondering my reaction to the rest of Hall & Oates’ work this week, I went looking for covers. And that required some digging: All-Music Guide tells me that there are 1,021 CDs that include a tune called “She’s Gone.” But many of those tracks are Hall & Oates’ original – which, I should note, the two singers wrote – on various collections and compilations. Many others are different songs of the same title, notably by Hound Dog Taylor, the Isley Brothers, Duke Ellington, the Gosdin Brothers, Marvin Rainwater and Black Sabbath. So there were a lot of dead ends.
But there are a few covers of the Hall & Oates tune out there. I’ve found three so far: Tavares covered the tune and released it as a single that went to No. 50 in 1974. I find that version a little bland. Dee Dee Bridgewater retitled the song “He’s Gone” and included it on her self-titled 1976 debut, and I like her take on the tune quite a bit. But my favorite among the covers I’ve found so far come from Lou Rawls, who made the song the title track of his 1974 album, She’s Gone.
Wherever I might have looked for a history lesson in 1970, Rick’s turntable was a pretty unlikely choice. But one day or evening during the summer of that year, he and I were hanging out in his room. He’d taken over half the basement and turned it into what was essentially a crash pad: a mattress on the floor, a stereo, brick-and-board shelves filled with LPs, posters on the walls and a lava lamp. We spent a lot of time down there during the last years of the 1960s and the early years of the 1970s, listening to tunes and making our minds up about the things that really mattered in life; those topics ranged from the importance of the then-burgeoning environmental movement to the likely identity of the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie during the next NHL season.
But as diverse as our topics were, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I heard when Rick played Neil Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript. The fourth track on Side One, “Done Too Soon,” grabbed me and – at the same time – provided a little bit of a history lesson:
Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice. Wolfie Mozart and Humphrey Bogart and Genghis Khan and On to H. G. Wells.
Ho Chi Minh, Gunga Din, Henry Luce and John Wilkes Booth And Alexanders King and Graham Bell.
Rama Krishna, Mama Whistler, Patrice Lumumba and Russ Columbo. Karl and Chico Marx, Albert Camus.
E. A. Poe, Henri Rousseau, Sholom Aleichem and Caryl Chessman. Alan Freed and Buster Keaton too.
And each one these Has one thing to share: They have sweated beneath the same sun, Looked up in wonder at the same moon, And wept when it was all done For bein’ done too soon.
For bein’ done too soon.
For bein’ done.
I was fascinated, and we listened to it again until I was certain I had all the names right. I knew all but two of them. I was unfamiliar with the name of American actor and singer Russ Columbo and with that of Alexander King. (There are two men by that name whom I think Diamond could have been referring to, one a writer, the other a scientist. I still have no idea which one he meant to name-check.)
I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely clear at the time why some of those men whom Diamond mentioned were prominent: For example, I knew Patrice Lumumba was African, but I didn’t know that he’d been the prime minister of the Republic of the Congo for a brief time in 1960 before being overthrown in a coup.
There were a few others where my data banks were slender as well: death row inmate Caryl Chessman, author Albert Camus and deejay Alan Freed were persons whose names I recognized without knowing why they were famous. And, of course, being a good sixteen-year-old Midwest Lutheran, I had no idea that Rama Krishna was, as Wikipedia notes, a famous Indian mystic of the nineteenth century.
I won’t say I ran out and began to find out about those men during that summer of 1970. But as time moved and on one occasion or another I learned why those men were famous, I’d make the connection to Diamond’s song and nod with a bit of private satisfaction.
And from that first hearing in Rick’s crash pad, “Done Too Soon” has been one of my favorites. Rick and I were fortunate enough at the end of that summer to hear Diamond perform the song in concert at the Minnesota State Fair. In fact, we heard it twice. We were in the open-air grandstand for Diamond’s first show of the evening, and then went back to wandering around the fair until it was time to meet my folks near the grandstand. We could hear Diamond performing his second show as we waited, and just before my folks showed up, we heard “Done Too Soon” one more time.
(The video above is pretty well done, but it requires some comment. When pulling a visual from the 1939 film, Gunga Din, the creator showed a still of the English characters played by Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., instead of Sam Jaffee’s Gunga Din, the title character created by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poem. And the video also showed a portrait of Alexander the Great instead of either the scientist or the writer named Alexander King.)
A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 7
“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, Philles 116 
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton, Elektra 45687 
“Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond from Tap Root Manuscript 
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette 
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, ABC 11427 
“Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert from Jackrabbit Slim 
As I’ve mentioned before, I try to separate Phil Spector’s brilliant work in the 1960s and 1970s from the events of recent years that culminated in murder. It’s difficult to do. But Spector’s Wall of Sound needed to be somewhere in this collection, so I went back to what I think what his most typical production, if not his greatest. The Crystals’ “Uptown” and “He’s A Rebel” might be better records by a little bit, but they don’t grab me at any moment like “Be My Baby” does with its introduction and then with Hal Blaine’s drum fills. So maybe this one – which went to No. 2 in the autumn of 1963 – makes the list more for Blaine’s work than for any other reason.
Continuing with uncertainty, I’m not sure I can relate what it is that qualifies Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back” for the Ultimate Jukebox. When it came blasting out of the radio speakers during the summer of 1970, it sounded about as tough as anything in the Top 40 at the time. (Glancing at the Billboard Top 40 for the last week of June 1970, I should acknowledge that Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” had some edge to it, as did CCR’s “Up Around the Bend.”) Add to that, I guess, that “Go Back” was a song I heard rarely on oldies radio over the years. That made it seem fresh when I came across Crabby Appleton’s first album during my early wanderings through music blogs. It wasn’t a huge hit: It went to No. 36. But it still sounds pretty good coming out of the speakers.
I still recall the first time I heard Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone.” It was spring break in 1975, and I was working with another student for St. Cloud State’s Learning Resources Services, wandering around campus and finding audiovisual equipment (as it was called in those days). We’d paint a black stripe over the large yellow letters that read “SCS LRS” and then, when the black paint dried, spray smaller white letters that read “SCS LRS.” My dad said the director of Learning Resources had never liked the yellow paint. Anyway, on one of those nine or so days, my co-painter and I grabbed some fast food and then went to his apartment for lunch. While we chowed, he dropped an LP on the stereo and cued up “She’s Gone.” I long ago forgot the guy’s name, which is too bad, because I still love the record and I’d like to say thanks. A single edit went to No. 60 in 1974 and then, on re-release, went to No. 7 in 1976. The only YouTube video I found of the album version when I originally created this post used the song behind, for some reason, visuals of Pam Grier in her roles as, evidently, Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and Sheba. But a newer, more rational video now allows me to present “She’s Gone” in a form I prefer.
The story is that Stevie Wonder stopped by for a visit one day when Rufus was in the studio. While more or less messing around, he wrote “Tell Me Something Good” on the spot and handed it over to the group, whose lead singer, Chaka Khan, did a hell of a job on the record. It’s a slinky, snaky, sexy record that provides a public service along the way: If you’re not twitching or at least moving a little bit as the record plays, get yourself to a doctor because you might be dead. The record, Rufus’ first hit, went to No. 3 during the summer of 1974.
I’ve said something like this before, but one of the worst things that can happen to any performer or act is to be tagged the next something. During the 1960s and 1970s, the bargain record bins were filled with LPs by folks who had been dubbed the new Beatles, the new Dylan, the new Baez, the new Cream and on and on. Very few performers or groups, it seems to me, can recover from that kind of promotional linkage. When Steve Forbert showed up in 1978 with his debut album, Alive on Arrival, some called him the new Dylan. He soldiered on, and although he never came close to living up to the weight of that tag – who could? – he’s put together a decent career that continues to this day. (He released his thirteenth studio album, The Place and the Time just about a year ago.) He’s reached the Top 40 only once, in 1979, when the jaunty “Romeo’s Tune” went to No. 11. Why is it here? Partly because, as I’ve also said before, I’m a sucker for a descending bass line but also because – beyond that – I think it’s a great record.