Well, the signs were there: On Friday evening, when my pal Rob and I headed out to the College of St. Benedict in nearby St. Joseph for a performance by the Blues Heritage Orchestra Quintet (an excellent choice for a good evening; I’ll perhaps write about the group in the future), I had a sore throat, which I ignored. Not a good decision, as it turned out.
The next morning – when I wrote about our busy Saturday – I had a few body aches, which I generally ignored. Again, not a good decision.
When I awoke Sunday, I had no energy, my head felt like concrete, my throat was raw, and I was coughing. I canceled plans and stayed home. And here I am three days later, still at home. I’ve talked to Mom several times, but I’m not visiting right now. And the doctor says I should be fine by Friday, as long as I continue to lay low until then.
So I’ll lay low. But with Mom in rehab for at least another two weeks, and now me unable to do much this week, I swear it feels as if someone put the load right on me.
That’s a quote from “The Weight,” of course, so here’s Jackie DeShannon’s version of the tune. It’s from her great 1968 album, Laurel Canyon. I’ll be back when I’m back.
Just as readers getting to know one another check out each other’s bookshelves, so, too, do music lovers cast inquiring eyes on the record and CD collections of folks new to their lives. And I was rifling through the LPs owned by my new lady in June 1987 when I came across an album by a group I’d never heard about: The Pozo-Seco Singers.
The album was I Can Make It With You.
“Oh, that’s one of my favorites,” my ladyfriend said. And when I heard the album later that day or maybe that week, her love of the record made sense. The folk rock of the Pozo-Seco Singers’ second album, a 1966 release, fit right in with the folk and the folk-rock that made up most of her collection: Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon & Garfunkel, the We Five and more.
And I Can Make It With You became one of the albums we played on occasion when we whiled away time at her place that late spring and summer. After that, I doubt that I heard it again until sometime during the last few years, when a digital copy of the album came my way. And when the title track popped up the other night as the RealPlayer rolled on, I got to thinking about the Pozo-Seco Singers and I did some digging.
The group released a total of four albums, according to All Music Guide. In 1966, Time went to No. 127 on the Billboard 200, and the following February, I Can Make It With You went to No 81. The group’s last two releases, 1967’s Shades Of Time and 1970’s Spend Some Time With Me, did not chart.
The group – perhaps better remembered these days for the presence of eventual country star Don Williams – had eight singles in or near the Billboard Hot 100, starting with “Time,” which went to No. 47 in early 1966 and ending with “Strawberry Fields/Something” (credited to simply Pozo Seco), which bubbled under the chart at No. 115 in late 1970. Of their eight charting or near-charting singles, the best performing was “I Can Make It With You,” which peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard chart on October 22, 1966, forty-seven years ago today.
I don’t recall the record from its time on the chart, but I wasn’t really listening in the autumn of 1966, and from what I see at Oldiesloon, “I Can Make It With You” never charted at KDWB anyway. A few years later, I might have heard it late at night on WLS, but as it happened, I likely never heard the record until I heard it on my lady’s stereo some evening late in the spring of 1987.
And I learned as I dug around during the past few days that the Pozo-Seco Singers weren’t the only ones who released “I Can Make It With You” as a single. Jackie DeShannon also recorded the Chip Taylor song, and her version reached the Hot 100 the same week that the Pozo-Seco Singers’ version did, on September 10, 1966. But DeShannon’s version – a slower ballad-like take backed with a near Wall of Sound – peaked at No. 68 in early October and was gone from the chart by the time the Pozo-Seco Singers’ version was at its peak.
If I were forced to do so, it would be hard to choose one of the two. I love almost everything I’ve ever heard from DeShannon’s catalog, and her take on “I Can Make It With You” is no exception. But the visceral tug of memory is hard to resist, so I’d probably go with the Pozo-Seco Singers on a warm late spring evening.
It’s time for a random walk through the more than 70,000 mp3s that have somehow gathered on the digital shelves in the past thirteen years. We’ll set the RealPlayer’s cursor in the middle of the pack, hit the forward button and check out the next six tracks.
Tell Automatic Slim, tell razor-totin’ Jim, Tell butcher knife-totin’ Annie, tell fast-talkin’ Fanny, We gonna pitch a ball down to that union hall. We gonna romp and tromp till midnight, We gonna fuss and fight till daylight. We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long. All night long, all night long, all night long.
The song, written by Willie Dixon, might be better known from Koko Taylor’s 1966 version, which went to No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the R&B chart, but the Wolf’s version is the original. According to Wikipedia, neither Dixon nor the Wolf thought much of the song, with the Wolf quoted there as calling it a “levee camp” song. “Wang Dang Doodle” hit the charts again in 1974, when the Pointer Sisters’ cover went to No. 61 on the Hot 100 and to No. 24 on the R&B chart.
Eternity’s Children was a four-person pop group that evolved out of a group first formed in 1965 in Cleveland, Mississippi. The group’s self-titled debut album from 1968 has achieved some prominence over the years due to the co-production from sunshine pop gurus Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen, although All Music Guide notes that the album “does not rank among the Boettcher/Olsen duo’s crowning achievements – both producers were distracted by other concurrent projects.” “Sunshine Among Us” is the album’s closing track; released as a single, it bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 117.
In her lengthy career in the Hot 100 – from 1962 into 1980 – Jackie DeShannon hit the Top 40 three times, and all three records had the word “love” in their titles: “What The World Needs Now Is Love” went to No. 7 in 1965, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” went to No. 4 (No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart) in 1969, and “Love Will Find A Way” went to No. 40 (No. 11 AC) later that same year. Given the ubiquity of love as a topic for song, that might not be unique, but I thought it was interesting. The record we chance on this morning is the third one of those. “Love Will Find A Way” isn’t overwhelmingly good, and I don’t know that I heard it back in 1969, but it would have sounded nice coming out the radio between, say, the Beatles and Three Dog Night.
Chris Rea’s Blue Guitars is a 2005 release that consisted of eleven CDs, a DVD and a book that included liner notes, lyrics and Rea’s own paintings. “The album,” notes Wikipedia, “is an ambitious project with the 137 songs recorded over the course of 1½ years with a work schedule – according to Chris Rea himself – of twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Initially the project was inspired by Bill Wyman’s Blues Odyssey and can be called an ‘odyssey’ in its own right, for depicting a journey through the various epochs of Blues Music, starting at its African origins and finishing with modern-time Blues from the 60s and 70s.” We land this morning on “Ticket For Chicago,” a track from the Country Blues disc of the massive album. Complete with the crackle and hiss of an old 78 at its start, the track is a pleasant stop along the way and a reminder that I need to dig far deeper into Blue Guitars than I have so far.
Our fifth stop is a cryptic B-side to a Top 20 hit on the Apple label: Mary Hopkin’s “Sparrow” seems to be a tale of melancholy confinement and the hope of escape, with that famed Apple producer Paul McCartney framing Hopkin’s crystal voice with bells and choirs and – at the end – a meandering saxophone. The track – written by Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle in their roles as songwriters for Apple – was the flip side to Hopkin’s “Goodbye,” which went to No. 13 (No. 6 AC) in 1969. While it’s doubtful that “Sparrow” could have been a hit as the A-side, I like it much better than I do “Goodbye” or Hopkin’s two other Top 40 hits, “Those Were The Days” (No. 2 pop and No. 1 AC in 1968) and “Temma Harbour” (No. 39 pop and No. 4 AC in 1970).
And we end our brief journey this morning on a front porch somewhere in the Louisiana bayous with Tony Joe White’s “Lazy” telling us that he’s just not going to get much done today:
Today you know I feel so dog gone lazy.
I believe my get-up-and-go has done gotta be gone.
Today I just can’t get it on.
The mellow and bluesy track comes from White’s 1973 album Home Made Ice Cream, which is a decent enough piece of work. It’s an album with a nice, generally laid back groove, very much like, say, something from J. J. Cale. But only occasionally does it approach the swampiness of “Polk Salad Annie,” White’s No. 8 hit from 1969.
I was introduced to beerball in the spring of 1972. The concept was simple: Everyone in a group – in this case, the staffers at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student radio station – chipped in a minimal amount of money, and two or three drinking-age staffers headed to the liquor store. Those two or three staffers would then meet the rest of the crew at a softball diamond somewhere near campus, bringing with them a couple of cases of cheap beer. With teams somehow selected, softball play began, except everyone always had a bottle of beer at hand.
If you were at bat, you placed your bottle a short distance from home plate. If you got a hit or otherwise reached base, there was an automatic time out for you to go back to home plate, retrieve your beer and bring it with you onto the base paths. Fielders had their bottles nearby, and if a batted ball hit a beer bottle, it was an automatic out. And when a player in the field emptied his or her bottle before the inning was over, it was his or her right to call a timeout in order to come in to the cooler to get another beer to take back into the field.
The weekly games usually took place on Wednesday afternoon, beginning sometime after three o’clock or whenever enough of us could break away from classes and our duties at the radio station. They ended, if memory serves me, somewhere between seven and eight o’clock, when many of us would wobble downtown for something to eat. (And for those who, unlike me, were of legal drinking age in the spring of 1972, most likely more beer or related beverages: Wednesday night was party night in St. Cloud in the early 1970s, as early classes did not meet Thursday mornings.)
Sometimes, we drank Cold Spring, a beer brewed in the little town of that name just fifteen miles southwest of St. Cloud. The brewery still exists, now producing microbrews and beers for various other brewers; its best product is probably John Henry Three Lick Spiker Ale. Forty years ago, in the days before craft beers and before any of us had full-time paychecks, we drank the cheap stuff. And Cold Spring was cheap and not all that good.
Other times, we’d dig into a couple of cases of Buckhorn, a budget beer brewed – if I read Wikipedia correctly – by the folks who brewed Lone Star Beer in Texas. Buckhorn was bad beer, too. I knew that even then, but it was a perfectly good beer at the time to carry on the way from first to second base.
As we played beerball, we had music, of course. Sometimes we’d listen on a portable FM radio to whichever poor schmuck was stuck on air back at the KVSC studios and couldn’t get out to play beerball. More often than not, though, we had an AM radio tuned – most likely – to KDWB in the Twin Cities. And if – as seems likely – we played beerball forty years ago this week, we no doubt heard (and groaned at) a good share of the Billboard Top Ten:
“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension
I didn’t care for much of that Top Ten forty years ago, and time has not changed that. Out of those, there are only three that I’d enjoy hearing with any regularity: The Staple Singers, the Chi-Lites and the first of the two Billy Preston titles. And I can gladly go years without hearing “The Candy Man” ever again.
Luckily, there are some better things lower down in the Hot 100 from June 10, 1972, so let’s head that way.
When Stephen Stills released Manassas in the spring of 1972, it was a solo album with a stellar supporting cast (Chris Hillman, Dallas Taylor, Paul Harris, Fuzzy Samuels, Al Perkins and Joe Lala with cameos from Sidney George, Bill Wyman and Byron Berline). A year later, recording under the name of Manassas, the same group of musicians (with a few extra folks) released Down the Road. That always kind of confused me when I was a casual record buyer and didn’t really have any reference books to figure out stuff like that. Anyway, sitting at No. 62 forty years ago this week was “It Doesn’t Matter” from Manassas. A decent enough record, it would go one spot higher.
Just two spots further down, at No. 64, sits a great piece of power pop/boogie from the Raiders. “Powder Blue Mercedes Queen” was the Raiders’ third record to hit the Hot 100 since “Indian Reservation” went to No. 1 in early 1971. But like the previous two entrants, “PBMQ” would fall short of that rarified position, peaking at No. 54. Stylistically, it was a long way from the Raiders’ two country-rock-ish previous releases (“Birds of a Feather” and “Country Wine,” which went to Nos. 23 and 51 respectively). As good as it was, I imagine it didn’t sound the way folks expected the Raiders to sound.
According to the legend, Ringo Starr caught a performance by English singer-songwriter Chris Hodge and got him signed to Apple Records. Hodge’s website says, “Ringo and Chris shared a common interest in sci-fi and UFOs,” which led to Apple releasing Hodge’s trippy “We’re On Our Way” with its references to saucers and astral moonbeams. The record was sitting at No. 69 forty years ago this week, on its way to No. 44. It was the only release by Hodge to reach the chart.
Just a little further down, we find some early boogie by ZZ Top. The first charting single for the Texas trio, “Francene” was sitting at No. 77 and would eventually get to No. 69. As the Seventies moved along and turned into the Eighties, of course, ZZ Top became a fixture in the Top 40 with a couple of No. 8 hits (“Legs” in 1984 and “Sleeping Bag” in 1985). As for “Francene,” one of the commenters at YouTube noted the Rolling Stones-like cries of “Whee!” (or however one might spell it) in the last few moments. Not sure about anyone else, but they work for me.
Sitting at No. 83, we find what I think is one of Rod Stewart’s best vocal performances ever with “In A Broken Dream” from the Australian group Python Lee Jackson. The song was recorded in the 1960s, before Stewart became a star, according to Wikipedia: “Believing his vocals were not correct for the song, [songwriter and Python Lee Jackson member Dave] Bentley brought in Rod Stewart . . . as a session musician for the song.” Wikipedia goes on to note that Stewart was paid for the session with a new set of seat covers for his car. First released in 1970, the record did not make the charts. In 1972 (not coincidentally after Stewart was a star), the record went to No. 56 in the U.S. before becoming a No. 3 hit in the United Kingdom.
I’ve written about my admiration for Jackie DeShannon before, and I was hoping to share a video of her “Vanilla Ólay,” which was sitting at No. 99 forty years ago this week. But that’s not possible, says YouTube. A closer look at the copies I have of the Billboard Hot 100, however, shows that “Vanilla Ólay” was the A-Side of a double-sided single, with DeShannon’s cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” on the B-Side. That’s not the way Joel Whitburn has it listed in Top Pop Singles, but I’m going to give you “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” anyway. The single – however it was promoted – went to No. 76.
It’s already midmorning here on the East Side. The Texas Gal is up in the loft working on projects for a monthly quilting class she’s taking. As she does, she’s also sorting and organizing fabric for other projects.
We do have some errands to run, as soon as I file a post here, and we don’t want to delay those too deeply into the afternoon. So, instead of casting about desperately for something to write about, I thought I would post a version of a song whose title, at least, links to the Texas Gal’s current activities.
“Needles and Pins” has been placed in the Billboard Hot 100 four times, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Jackie DeShannon’s version of the song, which was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche, went to No. 84 in 1963 before the Searchers’ version went to No. 13 in 1964.
The English group Smokie had a minor hit with the song, as well, with that version going to No. 68 in 1977. And Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks – backed by the Heartbreakers – took a live version of the song to No. 37 in 1986.
Among the others who have covered the durable tune over the years are the Ramones, Del Shannon, the Raspberries, Herman’s Hermits, Cher, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, a ska band from Los Angeles called See Spot, folk singer Ferron, Dwight Twilley and more.
I haven’t heard all of those, of course, and I might explore some of them here in the weeks ahead. Of those versions I have heard, I like the Petty/Nicks live take, as I do the Searchers’ version, which was no doubt the first version I ever heard. But in recent years, I find myself enjoying DeShannon’s version more. I’m not sure if DeShannon’s version is the first – there are a few videos at YouTube presenting Cher’s version of the tune, and that Imperial single might be the original take on the song – but DeShannon’s version of the song is, to me, definitive. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.
As the third week of September closed in 1968, your narrator had just finished his second week of high school and was beginning to know his way around the building. In that progress, he was about a week behind his classmates, as he’d missed the first week of school.
A family vacation – coinciding with the arrival in Philadelphia of my sister from a six-week stay in France – had meant that I showed up for my first days of high school at the start of the second week of school. I wasn’t at all unhappy to trade time devoted to geometry, physical education and the rest for time in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Springfield, Illinois, but when I did start the year at St. Cloud Tech High, I was a week behind in everything. Not just schoolwork, but in things like knowing which rooms were in the old wing of the building and which were in the new, and when could I go somewhere without a hall pass and when could I not. My fellow sophomores had already gone through those adjustments, and I felt a little conspicuous.
And I never did catch up in geometry, although that might have more to do with study habits than with a week’s late start; I’d never had to study hard to succeed in school before, and the college prep schedule I was facing that sophomore year was going to require it.
So what music was easing my way through a season of change? Well, I was still putting Al Hirt and Herb Alpert and my growing collection of soundtracks on the stereo at home. I was a year away from actively seeking out Top 40 music, but of course I heard it at friends’ homes through their listening and that of their siblings. And I heard Top 40 at home, too, as my sister had begun the long-time habit of retuning the kitchen radio from WCCO to KDWB when she and I were taking care of chores there.
Here’s some of what was in the air – the Billboard Top Ten – as the third week of September came to a close in 1968:
“Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley
“People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals
“Hey Jude” by the Beatles
“Hush” by Deep Purple
“1, 2, 3, Red Light” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company
“Light My Fire” by José Feliciano
“Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
“The Fool on the Hill” by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66
“I’ve Got To Get A Message To You” by the Bee Gees
“The House That Jack Built” by Aretha Franklin
That’s a decent chunk of listening. I even like the Jeannie C. Riley and 1910 Fruitgum Company tunes although I wouldn’t want them popping up more often than every couple of months. They were, of course, in a far heavier rotation at the time. But that’s a very good Top Ten: Some inventive pop, some country, some bubblegum, a couple of records with Latin sounds, an R&B classic, a little blue-eyed soul and couple of heavier tunes.
So what do we find when we head a little further down the Billboard Hot 100 for that week?
At No. 33, we find a piece of bubblegum that was about to lose its flavor. “Down At Lulu’s” by the Ohio Express had reached its peak, moving up to No. 33. A week later, the single – the third of five by the Ohio Express to reach the Top 40 – would slide to No. 40 before falling entirely out of the Hot 100 the next week.
There appears to be an interesting story to “Brown Eyed Woman,” a solo recording by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers that was at No. 46 for the second week. The record, which would peak at No. 43 during the first week of October, is said to be Medley’s musical response to his romance with singer Darlene Love. Love evidently confirmed the relationship, according to a piece at answers.com: “In 1968, Love and Leonard Peete divorced. Soon afterward, she began a long-running relationship with Bill Medley, one of the Righteous Brothers. ‘A lot of people don’t know that me and Bill Medley almost got married,’ Love told Chris Morris of Billboard. ‘It was a very controversial thing then, back in the sixties. It just wasn’t publicized that blacks and whites were in love, especially in our business.” (The version of the record offered at YouTube is evidently the version from Medley’s 1968 album, Bill Medley 100%. I’ve seen a label for the single with a running time of 3:17.)
Jackie DeShannon had gone some time looking for her second Top 40 hit. “What The World Needs Now Is Love” had reached No. 7 in 1965, and she’d not cracked the Top 40 since. In the early autumn of 1968, “The Weight,” a cover of The Band’s tune from DeShannon’s Laurel Canyon album, had been slowly moving up the Hot 100. By September 21, the record had reached No. 56, but it wouldn’t go much further. “The Weight” peaked at No. 55, occupying that spot during the last week of September and the first week of October. (A couple of interesting notes: One of the background singers on “The Weight” is Barry White. The track also has Dr. John on piano.) While “The Weight” fell short, DeShannon would get back to the Top 40 during the summer of 1969 with “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” (No. 4) and then again in December 1969 with “Love Will Find A Way” (No. 40). (It’s worth noting that The Band’s version of “The Weight” was at No. 70 on September 21, 1968; it would peak at No. 63 the following week.)
Just a little bit lower in the Hot 100, we find a song that became a Top 40 hit not quite a year later: The 5th Dimension took “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” to No. 20 in the late summer of 1969, but during the week we’re looking at – September 21, 1968 – the song belonged to Patti Drew, a soul/R&B singer from South Carolina. Her first single, as a member of the Drew-Vels – a group that included two of her sisters – was “Tell Him,” which is not – as I first wrote – a cover of the Exciters’ 1962 hit. It reached No. 90 on both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart. Three years later, Drew’s solo version of “Tell Him” went to No. 85 on the Hot 100 and reached No. 22 on the R&B chart. And during the early autumn of 1968, Drew’s version of “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” went to No. 62 on the Hot 100 and to No. 34 on the R&B chart. It seems to have been her last charting single, and if that’s the case, she went out with a winner, a great record that should have done better. To my ears, this is sweet stuff.
At No. 80, we find a true rarity: A record that – at the end of October – would make the least possible impact in the Top 40, reaching No. 40 for one week only: “Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde. The group, says All Music Guide, was a duo: vocalists Chuck Woolery and Elkin “Bubba” Fowler, and “Naturally Stoned” was the group’s second release. “Yellow Beads” had been released in late 1967 but made no impact. After “Naturally Stoned,” the duo released a less-psychedelic single, “Fly With Me,” which bubbled under the Hot 100 for two weeks, and with that, the duo called it quits. Fowler went on to a brief solo career and then played a few sessions, including guitar on Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait. Woolery, as many folks likely know, went on to fame as a television game show host.
And as long as we’re being trippy, let’s drop to No. 105 in the Bubbling Under portion of the Hot 100 and get into the “Smell of Incense” from Southwest F.O.B., a band from Dallas, Texas. The single was a cover of a record originally done by the the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, notes AMG, adding – fascinatingly – that “most of their material was original, penned by Dan Seals and John Ford Colley [sic], who went on to land some big soft-rock hits in the 1970s as England Dan and John Ford Coley.” The single peaked at No. 56 at the end of October.
We’ll see you Thursday, when we’ll take a look at the next six tunes in the Ultimate Jukebox.
(Error in Patti Drew segment corrected after first posting.)