Posts Tagged ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials’

Little Anthony With Whom?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

It’s a chart listing that sparks . . . well, not quite cognitive dissonance but at least the thought, “Huh! I wonder how that turned out.” The record in question – sitting at No. 41 in the Billboard Hot 100 on October 30, 1965 – is “I Miss You So,” credited to Little Anthony & The Imperials with The 101 Strings.

Little Anthony & The Imperials were, as most might know, an R&B vocal group from Brooklyn that first broke into the charts during the summer of 1958 with one of the great heartbreak songs of that musically fertile decade: “Tears On My Pillow.” The record went to No. 4 (No. 2 on the R&B chart) and was the first of what turned out to be twenty-five records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 into 1975.

There were a few gaps in there. Most of the group’s records in the months following the success of “Tears On My Pillow” hung around the lower portions of the Hot 100; the one exception was “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop,” which went to No. 24 (No. 14, R&B) in early 1960. Two more records tumbled around the lower parts of the chart in the next year or so, and then Little Anthony & The Imperials weren’t heard from for a while.

According to Wikipedia, Little Anthony (Anthony Gourdine) left for a solo career while other members of the group came and went during that time. In 1963, Gourdine came back and the group found its way to a new record label, DCP (Don Costa Productions), where it teamed up with producer Teddy Randazzo, a childhood friend of the group.

Then came a string of Top Twenty hits: “I’m On The Outside (Looking In),” “Goin’ Out Of My Head,” “Hurt So Bad” and “Take Me Back,” with the middle two of those reaching the Top Ten. (All four records made the R&B chart, with the first three of them reaching the Top Ten and the last peaking at No. 15.)

And now enter the 101 Strings. Billed as the “World’s Largest Orchestra,” the first orchestra called the 101 Strings was actually, says Wikipedia, the Northwest German Radio Orchestra of Hamburg, signed by David L. Miller to record “in-house arrangements of popular standards” for his Somerset label. The first album was released in 1957, and Wikipedia notes that twenty-four records were released in 1958, some of which were filled with “recycled material from earlier albums attributed to the New World Orchestra, the Rio Carnival Orchestra, and other light music orchestras.”

The 101 Strings sold lots of lush, romantic records, many of which were based around geographical themes. In 1959, The Soul of Spain reached No. 9 during a thirty-two week stay on the Billboard album chart. (In his Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums, Joel Whitburn notes that The Soul of Spain was No. 1 for forty-six of the forty-seven weeks that Billboard published a “Best Selling Low Price LP’s” chart.) Two years later, The Soul of Spain, Volume II went to No. 21. The orchestra(s), through shifts in popular taste and in the ownership of the 101 Strings concept (with resulting label changes), continued to release records into the 1980s.

That’s all fine, but this morning our interest is in the 1965 single “I Miss You So.” As incongruent as the pairing of Little Anthony & The Imperials with the 101 Strings seems for an instant, a second thought – recognizing the lushness of Little Anthony’s ballads – brings a little less skepticism. And though the strings might be a bit overblown, the single seems to work, as does “Get Out Of My Life” on the B-side, which is also credited to Little Anthony & The Imperials with the 101 Strings.

“I Miss You So” didn’t do as well as the previous singles by Little Anthony & The Imperials, peaking at No. 34, but it still brought the group its last Top 40 hit.

I should note that it’s entirely possible that “I Miss You So” was not the first time the group had been backed by the 101 Strings. I’ve seen at least one source that says that the 101 Strings also played on “Hurt So Bad,” and the sound of that record certainly would support that. But the record labels I’ve seen for “Hurt So Bad” do not credit the 101 Strings, while “I Miss You So” does, and it was that credit in the chart listing that caught my eye this morning. As always, more information is always welcome.

A Case Of Senioritis

Friday, November 19th, 2010

As the third week in November of 1970 spooled out, I was right back where I had been during the last two Novembers – going to classes and then hanging around wrestling practice as a manager at St. Cloud Tech High School. My main duty as wrestling manager was to maintain the scorebook and the statistics, which meant that during matches, I sat at the table at the front of the gym with the scoreboard operator.

In addition, I dispensed aspirin for minor bruises and contusions, wrapped vulnerable thumbs and ankles with an armor of athletic tape, treated raw spots – we called them “strawberries” – on arms and legs with a viciously painful spray called Nitro-Tan, and spent a lot of time sitting and doing nothing. And doing nothing got boring, as did watching wrestling practice. So I got in the habit of bringing a book to practice and sitting on the small gymnastics mat on the side of the wrestling gym, reading science fiction and astronomy. I was a little bit bored with wrestling, and that season marked the seventh out of eight sports seasons in my high school life that I’d spent as a manager for an athletic team. I was getting tired of the locker room and was wondering if I had any options anywhere else.

I’d not focused entirely on managing during high school. I’d played one year in Concert Band, and I was in my second year in Concert Choir and my third year in the orchestra. And as the holidays approached, I would be a member of the ten-voice Carolers, who dressed in something approaching Victorian costumes and performed frequently during December around the St. Cloud area. I’d miss a few wrestling practices for that, which I’d cleared with the coach, but I wouldn’t miss a match.

Still, I was a little unsettled, anxious to try something new. I was being adventurous in my social life, seeing a number of sophomore girls, although the young lady I preferred was directing her attentions elsewhere. (I told the story here and here.) But I wanted something new in the rest of my life, and I was looking.

It didn’t go unnoticed. The wrestling coach – whom we called “Kiff” and who lived less than a block away from us on Kilian Boulevard – told me the following spring, “I could see your attention wandering.” I began to apologize, but he waved it off. “It’s pretty normal for seniors. You’d been there two years and you begin to wonder what else there is to do. Most kids, when that happens, quit what they were doing and go off. You hung in there, and I appreciate that.”

As it happened, come late January and for the rest of the season, my “hanging in there” required some flexibility from both Kiff and the English teacher who directed the winter play. On a whim, I auditioned for a part in Tech’s presentation of the Woody Allen comedy, Don’t Drink The Water, and, to my astonishment, I was cast as the comedy lead. That would be in January, though, after 1970 turned into 1971. As wrestling season got underway, I had no idea what to do, and that gave me one more thing to ponder during the evenings I spent in my room with the radio playing.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten I would have heard during the third week of November in 1970, as I was assessing my options.

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom

Boy, even the soul and R&B selections there are a little bit lightweight, but it’s a pretty good Top Ten. I don’t know what the critical assessment of the No. 1 song would be these days, but given its time and place associations for me, the Partridge Family’s hit is a keeper. And so are most of the rest of those. But “Indiana Wants Me” has not aged well, and I have never liked “Montego Bay” although I have no idea why.

Other stuff waited lower down on the chart, of course. This week’s exploration takes place entirely in the bottom half of the Hot 100 and in its subbasement.

B.B. King had been a blues star and a presence on the Billboard R&B chart for years, first hitting that Top Ten in 1955, and he would continue to do so into 1981. His appearances in the Hot 100 were nearly as frequent, according to the list at All-Music Guide. But only a handful of his singles – six in all – reached the Top 40. In early 1970, King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” had peaked at No. 15, his best showing ever. And in the third week of November, his “Chains and Things” was moving up the charts; it would peak at No. 45 in the Hot 100 and would climb to No. 6 on the R&B chart.

 

Back in July, when several commenters agreed with my reservations about Barbra Streisand’s post-1970 work (especially 1976’s A Star Is Born), another commenter noted that those who criticize Babs are likely too young to appreciate her genius. I’ll dissent, of course, on being too young: I was listening to Barbra Streisand in my living room sometime in the mid-1960s after my sister bought her 1966 album Color Me Barbra. I liked it. And I generally liked Streisand’s work up until the mid-1970s, when – in my view – her ego outgrew her considerable talent. During the third week of November 1970, Streisand’s single “Stoney End,” which I liked a lot, was sitting at No. 59, having leaped eleven places from the previous week. It would go on to peak at No. 6 and be the third of Streisand’s eventual twenty-one Top 40 hits (through 2003).

Earlier in 1970, Tyrone Davis had a hit with the brilliant “Turn Back The Hands of Time,” which went to No. 3 in the Top 40 and spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. It was Davis’ third Top 40 hit and his fourth Top Ten hit on the R&B chart. He’d have two more Top 40 hits and at least twenty-six more records on the R&B chart (depending on the accuracy of the AMG lists) through 1983. In November 1970, “Let Me Back In” peaked at No. 58 in the Hot 100 and at No. 12 on the R&B chart and was sitting at No. 73 during the third week of that month.

It had been five years since Little Anthony & The Imperials had reached the Top 40. In 1964 and 1965, the group had five Top 40 hits, three of them in the Top Ten, following a pair of Top 40 hits in 1958 and 1960. Other singles made it into the Hot 100 during the lean years from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1965 to 1970, but I’m not sure how many. I do know that during the third week of November 1970, “Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You)” was at No. 96 and in its first week in the Hot 100. From what I can find, it would sit there one more week before spending a week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then disappearing completely.

Sitting just below the Hot 100, we find Desmond Dekker and his version of the Jimmy Cliff song “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” at No. 103. Dekker had reached No. 9 during the summer of 1969 with “Israelites,” which was credited to Desmond Dekker & The Aces. “You Can Get It . . .” didn’t technically make the pop chart; the record sat at No. 103 for one more week, then fell to No. 107 for a week before falling out entirely. Two years later, according to AMG, writer Cliff used the same rhythm track to cut his own version of the song for the soundtrack to The Harder They Come.

I know absolutely nothing about the New Young Hearts, nor does AMG, really. The only thing certain is that the group recorded for the Zea label and released one killer track, “The Young Hearts Get Lonely Too.” Forty years ago this week, the single was sitting at No. 123 in Bubbling Under portion of the chart, having moved up one slot from the week before. A week later, the record was gone. It deserved far, far better.

See you tomorrow.

(Incorrcect clip replaced since first posted.)