Posts Tagged ‘Lou Christie’

What Was At No. 81?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

It’s August 1, but I’m not going to go to Wikipedia to find out what happened on August 1 through the years. It’s not that I’m not interested; it’s just that I’ll likely not find the day owning a pairing of events as nifty as the First Defenestration of Prague and the birthday of Edd “Kookie” Byrnes that showed up Tuesday.

So we going to play with the numbers as we often do. We’ll turn 8/1 into No. 81 and see what we find in six editions of the Billboard Hot 100. Just for grins, we’ll start in an appropriate year that I don’t often visit – 1981 – and go back four years at a time from there. We’ll also note which records were No. 1 at the time.

And as we land on August 1, 1981, we run into a record I don’t know. I evidently did not hear “Summer ’81 Medley” during that season of newspaper work. The medley is a reasonably good rendition of (by my count) nine Beach Boys tunes credited to the Cantina Band. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last one more week and go no higher. Though it doesn’t say so on the record label in the video, Lou Christie joined in, and in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, the record is credited twice, to Lou Christie and to Meco recording as the Cantina Band. (That moniker is a reference to Meco’s No. 1 hit from 1977, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band,” the first of eleven records that Domenico Monardo and his friends put on the chart). As for Christie, “Summer ’81 Medley” was the last of eighteen records that he placed in or near the Hot 100 between January 1963 and August 1981. During that same week, sitting at No. 1 for the first of two weeks was Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”

Natalie Cole holds down the No. 81 spot as we move back to the first week of August in 1977. “Party Lights” boogies nicely but it didn’t do much more than that and it didn’t get much attention, moving up the chart only two more spots during its four-week stay in the Hot 100. (It went to No. 9 on the R&B chart.) Cole was, of course, a reliable chart presence for a decent length of time, notching twenty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1975 and 1998. As Cole was heading for the party lights, the No. 1 record was the late Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” in its second of four weeks on top of the chart (and the first of three straight No. 1 records for the youngest of the Brothers Gibb).

The Eagles don’t often show up here – I’m not entirely sure why that is – but it’s nice when they do. As August began in 1973, “Tequila Sunrise” was making a relatively brief and undistinguished appearance in the Hot 100. Forty years ago this week, the record was at No. 81, retreating from its peak rank of No. 64 (No. 26 on the Adult Contemporary chart). That’s not nearly as high as I would have guessed, given the record’s iconic stature. The Eagles, of course, have been a chart presence for more than forty years, with twenty-four records in or near the Hot 100 between 1972 and 2007. As “Tequila Sunrise” was holding at No. 81, Maureen McGovern’s “The Morning After” was in the first week of its two-week stay at No. 1.

Heading back four more years, we find ourselves in 1969, and sitting at No. 81 during the first days of August was “Simple Song of Freedom” by the late Tim Hardin. The anti-war anthem brought folk singer Hardin his only singles chart presence in a career that lasted from the mid-1960s until his death from a drug overdose in 1980. He’s better known, certainly, as the writer of numerous folk classics, including “If I Were A Carpenter,” “Reason To Believe” and “Lady Came From Baltimore.” The No. 1 record during the first days of August 1969 was Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus).”

Our next stop is August 1965, and the No. 81 record during that month’s first week is another record I’m not sure I’ve heard before: “He’s Got No Love”by the Searchers. The eleventh of fourteen records the Liverpool group would place in or near the pop chart, “He’s Got No Love” sounds good to these ears almost fifty years on. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last only one more, rising to No. 79 before falling off. The No. 1 record during the first week of August 1965 was one of the major earworms of its time, Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” (“Second verse, same as the first . . .”)

And in the first days of August 1961, twenty years back from where we started, the No. 81 spot in the Hot 100 belonged to Ronny Douglas, whose “Run, Run, Run” was in the second week of what would be a three-week visit to the chart. A decent enough record, it was the only appearance ever on the pop chart for New York singer-songwriter. Sitting at No. 1 during the first week of August 1961 was Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” in the fifth of seven weeks on top of the chart. (Lewis’ record spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

‘I Don’t Need No Light In The Darkness’

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Sometimes new stuff comes at you when you don’t expect it. By the summer of 1989 – when I landed in Anoka, Minnesota, for an eight-month stay – I was digging into musical performers and styles new to me (though some of those performers and styles had been around for some time). The digging was for the most part spurred by the contents of two boxes of records I’d bought at a North Dakota flea market during the late winter of 1989, boxes whose contents had introduced me to Mother Earth and had encouraged me to dig into performers about whom little I knew but their names, like Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ian Lloyd, Thin Lizzy, Terri Garthwaite and more. After years of letting music come to me when it would, I began to actively seek out new sounds.

And in July of 1989, a ladyfriend and I went to a concert in St. Paul, a show featuring Ringo Starr with the first incarnation of his All-Starr Band. Beyond Ringo himself, familiar names studded the lineup: Dr. John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Joe Walsh, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren and drummer Jim Keltner. Of all of them, I probably knew Lofgren and his work the least. I knew he’d been in Grin and that he’d worked some with Neil Young. And I was aware that he’d filled the spot created when Steve Van Zandt left Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in the mid-1980s. And in the interims, I knew, he’d done his own work. But I knew nothing about that work at all.

At mid-concert, as the musicians supporting Ringo were taking their solo numbers, Lofgren counted in a song that started with a shimmering figure above a descending bass. My date and I, standing on our chairs in the sixth row, looked at each other. “You know this one?” she whispered to me. I shook my head, but as I listened, I told myself that I was going to learn about that song starting very soon.

The first step was the song’s name, “Shine Silently,” which my ladyfriend and I learned the following morning as we read reviews of Ringo’s show in the Twin Cities newspapers. From there, finding the song took a little longer than I’d expected; I had to work for a living, and there was so much music out there and so much to do at home. But I continued to keep Lofgren’s name and music in mind as I wandered shops and flea markets. And in February 1990, I found in an Anoka shop a 1981 Lofgren anthology titled The Best, which included “Shine Silently.” A little more than a year later, in 1991, Ringo released an album pulled from his 1989 concert tour that included Lofgren’s live version of the song, and I grabbed that album the first day it was out. The song originally was on Lofgren’s 1979 album Nils in a slower – and lower-pitched – version than the one that showed up on The Best. Without knowing for sure, I’m thinking that the version on The Best was the single version released in 1979 as A&M 2182. I prefer that take and the one from the Ringo Starr tour to the one on Nils.

Here’s the concert version:

The song remains a favorite of mine, partially because I’m a sucker for a descending bass line but mainly for its gentle and loving tone. Here are the key lines:

Shine silently.
I don’t need no light in the darkness.
Shine silently.
No I won’t get lost while your love shines,
Shines on me, shines on me.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 5
“I’m Gonna Make You Mine” by Lou Christie, Buddha 116 [1969]
“Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night, ABC/Dunhill 4215 [1969]
“Trust Me” by Janis Joplin from Pearl [1971]
“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy [1971]
“Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson from Right On Time [1977]
“Shine Silently” by Nils Lofgren reissued on The Best [1979]

“I’m Gonna Make You Mine” was the last of five Lou Christie records to reach the Top 40, and it was separated from his last hit by more than three years, which is an eternity in the singles biz. In addition, the record was kind of clunky at moments, especially in the middle eight. But none of that mattered during the autumn of 1969, when the record went to No. 10, as “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” was the first record of that first Top 40 season that felt like it was about my life. There were no key lines, as the entire record spoke to me and, through me, to someone else. She wasn’t interested then, but five years later, for a too-brief time, she was mine.

Not quite a year ago, my blogging colleague jb wrote at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ about the television series Sports Night and the use of pop music by producer Aaron Sorkin to, as jb put it, “punctuate storylines.” One of those so used, in an episode that jb called the best in the series’ history, was Three Dog Night’s “Eli’s Coming,” a Laura Nyro song about a womanizer best avoided: “Eli’s coming, hide your heart, girl.” (Though I still wonder about the line “I went to Apollo by the bay.”) In his post, jb noted that one of the characters on Sports Center, even though he knows better now, still hears the song as he did the first time, as something more sinister: “There’s a strangeness about this day. Eli’s coming. . . . From the Three Dog Night song . . . Eli’s something bad. A darkness.” The character continues: “I know I’m getting the song wrong, but when I first heard it, that’s what I thought it meant. Things stay with you that way. . .” Indeed they do. For me the record – which went to No. 10 as 1969 turned into 1970 – was a slightly spooky, idiosyncratic piece of work and nothing more. Since I read jb’s post, however, the song sets me on edge more than it ever did. Thanks, jb. Still, it’s a great record. The key line? Right near the start, riding above that spooky organ for one more instant before the record takes off: “Eli’s a-comin’ and the cards say . . . a broken heart.”

It seems to me that the late Janis Joplin’s reputation rest in large part these days on her admittedly great facility as a blues shouter. She could wail, of course. Much of her work with Big Brother & The Holding Company – “Down On Me” and “Piece of My Heart” come to mind most quickly – was loud and insistent. (And good: One of those two records will show up here before this project is through.) Given the strength of those performances and her work on I Got Dem Ol’ Kosmic Blues Again Mama!, that image of Joplin as a wailer is understandable. Perhaps that’s why of all of Joplin’s work, I prefer Pearl, the posthumously released 1971 album. There are some workouts: “Cry Baby,” “Move Over” and “My Baby” come quickly to mind, and Joplin also takes the quiet start of “A Woman Left Lonely” to places not anticipated. But several times on Pearl, Joplin lets the song tell the story, seemingly holding back. The best of those tracks is her work on Bobby Womack’s “Trust Me.” That’s not to say Joplin’s interpretation doesn’t get intense. But it’s an intensity that seems to me, anyway, to have been very much under control. Key lines:

So if you love me like you tell me that you’re doing, dear,
You shouldn’t mind paying the price, any price, any price.
Love is supposed to be that special kind of thing,
Make anybody want to sacrifice.

I went over the history of the Long John Baldry track “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” in its various title permutations over the course of several posts a while back. (Those post are available here, here and here.) Of the various versions I know about, though – by Gator Creek, Crow, songwriter Jeff Thomas and Baldry – this one remains the favorite. Even with the shaggy dog story about Baldry playing his guitar in the street for pennies as prelude, the track from It Ain’t Easy still makes me wanna dance once pianist Ian Armitt starts accelerating. Key lines: “It ain’t a matter of pork ’n’ beans that’s gonna justify your soul/Just don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll!”

The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” slipped past me when it was on the charts in the late summer of 1977. I assume I heard it, as it got as high as No. 5 on the Billboard Top 40 chart (No. 1 on the R&B chart), but beyond a vague echo, the song spurs no memories for me. So why is it here in the Ultimate Jukebox? Because after the little filigree intro that was tacked on for the album, the song quickly finds an insistent groove that grabs one’s attention and anchors a great R&B record despite the sometimes surreal lyrics. The instrumental break by guitarist Lee Rittenour breaks into the groove, yes, but it delivers us back there as it fades, and we stroll along. As I noted here the other day, I sense an audio kinship between this record and the Isley Brothers’ long 1973 version of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” and that remains true, I think, as does the record’s lineage back to Shuggie Otis’ 1971 original recording of the song.  Key lines (I think):

A present from you:
Strawberry letter 22.
The music plays, I sit in for a few.

(Post revised slightly with new links December 22, 2012 and January 9, 2014.)