Posts Tagged ‘Kenny Rogers + The First Edition’

Digging A Bit Deeper In The Chart

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

A radio listener was doing pretty well forty years ago this week. As the month of July moved into its second week and a sixteen-year-old whiteray got ready for his four days of work at the state trapshoot, the radio supplied some good company. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the week ending July 11, 1970:

“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
“The Love You Save/I Found That Girl” by the Jackson 5
“Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by the Temptations
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Band of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“The Long And Winding Road/For You Blue” by the Beatles
“The Wonder of You/Mama Liked The Roses” by Elvis Presley
“Hitchin’ A Ride” by Vanity Fare

An interesting week in the Top Ten: A little bit of R&B, some folkie stuff, some mainstream pop-rock, some pure pop, a bombastic ballad from Elvis with a countryish flipside, a ballad from the Beatles with a three-chord blues on the flipside, and some Randy Newman surrealism filtered through Three Dog Night’s production values.

Things would get a little more interesting and surreal yet the next week when the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding” moved up two places and took up residence at No. 9. By then, I think, I was spending ten hours a day in a gunproof blockhouse, loading targets onto a machine so men and women with shotguns could shoot the targets and win trophies, money and more guns. I didn’t mind; I got paid pretty well for a kid in 1970: $15 a day. The worst part was that the dust from the targets – made from some kind of brittle tarry substance – burned my face, and during the week after the trapshoot, the skin on my face would crinkle for a few days and then peel off in large chunks.

But during the week in question, the first full week in July, my skin was blissfully uncrinkled, and aside from chores at home – mowing the lawn, picking up sticks after storms, patrolling the yard for dandelions (all of which I could do with a transistor radio in my pocket and an earpiece in my ear) – my time was pretty much my own. And I got a lot of listening done, the vast majority of which came from the Top 40.

Had I dug a little deeper into the Billboard Hot 100, I would have found some interesting bits and pieces.

Sitting at No. 31 was the 5th Dimension’s cover of a Laura Nyro tune: “Save the Country.” In its fifth week in the Hot 100, the song was already the group’s thirteenth Top 40 hit (the final total would be twenty Top 40 hits) and was heading for its peak position of No. 27.

 

Moving out of the Top 40 and further down the Hot 100, we run into a Chicago soul group at No. 56. The Lost Generation’s “The Sly, Slick, And Wicked” would eventually rise to No. 30 on the pop chart and to No. 14 on the R&B chart. The record would also inspire separate groups in Cleveland and Los Angeles to name themselves “Sly, Slick & Wicked,” ensuring confusion for music researchers for years to come.

I never cared much for Kenny Rogers as a country singer, the niche he fell into in the late 1970s with “Lucille” and many more, including the execrable “Coward of the County.” But there’s no denying that most of his hit records with the First Edition – seven Top 40 hits between 1968 and 1970 – also had a country tinge to them. Looking at the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits this morning, the only one of the First Edition’s hits that didn’t have at least some kind of countryish feel was the trippy “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a No. 5 hit in 1968. Sitting at No. 65 during the second week of July 1970 was one of those records with a country/gospel feel to it. “Tell It All Brother” would eventually make its way up the chart to No. 17. (The video credits the recording to Rogers alone, but it was released under the name of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.)

As is pretty widely known, the female voice doing the high-pitched end-of-the-world vocals on the Rolling Stones’ track “Gimme Shelter” was that of Merry Clayton. One of the most active and sought-after background vocalists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clayton also released three solo albums on the Ode label during the early years of the 1970s: Gimme Shelter in 1970 and Merry Clayton and Celebration in 1971. Ode would release another album, titled Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow in 1975 before Clayton moved to MCA for 1979’s Emotion and eventually to A&M for the 1994 Gospel CD, Miracles. But a lot of that was yet to come during this week in 1970, when the Ode single, “Gimme Shelter,” was sitting at No. 76. The record would peak a week later at No. 73 and would fall off the chart entirely during the next week.

And then we go from the horror of a world falling viciously apart to a sweet recording about an idyllic small town in California. Rita Abrams was a singer-songwriter who in1970 was teaching elementary school in the town of Mill Valley, California, located in Marin County about four miles north of San Francisco (via the Golden Gate Bridge). According to Wikipedia:

“On Christmas Day 1969, [Abrams] wrote a song about the town for her kindergarten class to sing. It was heard by record producer Erik Jacobsen, who recorded Adams with the children from the third grade class at the school, and took it to Warner Bros. Records where the label management ‘guys in suits stood up and gave it a standing ovation’. Released in June 1970 on the Reprise label, the record reached # 90 on the Billboard pop chart. Promotional photos of the singers were taken by Annie Liebowitz, and Abrams appeared on several networked TV shows and in national magazines, while also turning down an opportunity to advertise Jell-O. A performance for the Mill Valley Fourth of July celebration was filmed by Francis Ford Coppola, then a little-known documentary maker. Following the song’s success, Abrams, Jacobsen and the children recorded and released an album, entitled Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class as the children had by then moved up a grade. According to reviewer Greg Adams, ‘Only the most hard-hearted cynic could find no enjoyment in this minor masterpiece of early-’70s soft pop.’”

And here’s “Mill Valley” by Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point Third Grade Class:

Tunes To File Tax Returns By

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

During the adult years when I sailed my ship solo – from 1976 into 1978 and then again from 1987 through 1999 – April 15 was a scramble day. Despite my intentions every year, I was never organized enough to get my taxes done with anything more than a day left until the deadline for filing.

It’s not that my tax returns presented any real challenges: There were no deductions beyond the basic, no special forms to fill out, nothing out of the ordinary. I was just – as I have been in many areas all my life – disorganized. So I would generally complete my tax returns the night before and had to make time the next day to photocopy them somewhere and then run them to whichever post office was closest to my place of work.

I always got it done. The returns always made the mail on April 15. But not without a lot of stress and some extra commotion, which was good neither for me nor, I imagine, for my co-workers.

It’s different these days. The Texas Gal and I file our returns electronically, and – due to her organizational skills – generally do so by the beginning of February. It might have been a little later this year due to her schedule. But those tasks were done far in advance of the deadline of midnight tonight. And that’s good. I don’t miss the stress.

Anyway, trying to find something musical out of all that, I got to wondering what songs were at No. 15 on April 15 during some of the years that this blog looks at. I went back to 1960 for my first one, and found a song that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard: “Step by Step” by the Crests. It peaked at No. 14.

 

And then it was on to 1965 and another record that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. If so, it’s been infrequently and not for a long time: Jack Jones and “The Race Is On,” which during the week of April 15 in 1965 was at its peak position of No. 15.

Five years later, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition were sitting at No. 15 with “Something’s Burning” as Tax Day came in 1970. The record peaked at No. 11.

In 1975, the No. 15 song on April 15 was one that I became tired of hearing probably the second time it came on the radio: Leo Sayer’s “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance),” a record that unaccountably made it into the Top Ten, peaking at No. 9.

Five years later, Queen’s first No. 1 hit was sitting at No. 15 as Americans were rushing to get their taxes filed. I can’t embed the official video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” but you can see it here.

And we’ll close this Tax Day exercise with a look at 1985’s No. 15 song as of April 15. Holding down that position twenty-five years ago today was “Lover Girl” by Teena Marie, a record that went to No. 4.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the purposefully blurry video on that last one gets tiring after about twenty seconds.