Posts Tagged ‘Marvin Gaye’

Saturday Single No. 364

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

We’ve dipped twice into 1971 this week, so we’re going to stay there for one more shot this morning, taking a look at some radio station surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. The archive has, sadly, no surveys from November 2, 1971, but there are four surveys from the following day, from stations in Rochester, New York; Newport News, Virginia; and Modesto and Fresno, California.

We’ll drop the Fresno station for no particular reason and take a look at the No. 11 and 22 singles at the other three stations. We might find something interesting or we might find something over-familiar or truly lame. Whatever happens, we’ll find a Saturday Single.

We’ll start in Rochester at WBBF. Sitting at No. 11 in the station’s “Flower City Hits” was James Taylor’s “Long Ago and Far Away,” a single I’ve not thought about for years. Pulled from Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon, it’s a record that seems to have been buried in memory by the weight of Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend” from earlier in 1971 and “Fire And Rain” from the year before.

The No. 22 record on WBBF during that long-ago November week was “I’d Love To Change The World” (listed as only “Change The World”) by Ten Years After. I heard this one the other day on WXYG as I headed down Lincoln Avenue, and I was once again bemused by the “Tax the rich, feed the poor, until there are no rich no more” couplet. I also considered – not for the first time – about how unacceptable the reference to “dykes and fairies” would be today. Social change happens glacially, but it does happen.

That’s it for the Flower City Hits, except to note that the No. 1 record on the November 3, 1971, survey was Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft.”

Moving to Virginia, we stop at WGH 1310 in Newport News and its “13 + 10” for that distant Tuesday in 1971. Sitting at No. 11 that week was “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye. I know the five-minute-plus album track from What’s Going On, and although I don’t remember it, I’m sure I heard the single (with a running time of 2:58 on its label) coming from the radio in late 1971. Checking my files, I have only the album track, and that’s not surprising. What does surprise me this morning is the number of covers of the song I have on my digital shelves, including a seven-minute take from 1971 by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.

The No. 22 record at WGH during the first week in November 1971 was Bread’s sweet “Baby, I’m-A Want You.” That’s one of those records to which I never really paid much attention, even though I heard it over and over on the radio in 1971 and on my tape player in Denmark during the early months of 1974. Even though I paid little attention, “Baby, I’m-A Want You” – as many records do – insinuated itself into my head enough that I know every little swoop and dip.

We’ll move on to Modesto after noting that, just like at WBBF, the No. 1 record on WGH that week was “Theme from Shaft.”

Modesto station KFIV called its survey the “K 5 Hit 30.” Parked at No. 11 during the first week of November 1971 was Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train,” pulled from his Teaser & The Firecat album. The single was all over the radio, of course, and my sister brought the album home to Kilian Boulevard during that season. I was unimpressed and paid little attention to the single or the album. But like “Baby, I’m-A Want You” did, “Peace Train” slid itself inside my head from frequent hearing over the years (the same holds true for “Moonshadow” from Teaser as well), and when I was replicating my sister’s collection in the 1990s, Teaser joined the rest of the LPs on the shelf.

Dropping to No. 22, we find “Baby, I’m-A Want You” again. And all that’s left for us in Modesto is to note that the No. 1 record on the “K 5 Hit 30” for November 3, 1971, was Cher’s “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves.”

So, we have five records to choose from this morning, none of them particularly surprising but none of them particularly lame, either. I did a quick search, and I learned that I’ve mentioned “Inner City Blues” only once during more than six years of blogging. And I found a video at YouTube featuring the Tamla promo 45, so all of that that makes it easy to decide that the single version of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” is today’s Saturday Single.

And At No. 33, We Find . . .

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

It’s been one of those weeks: Medical appointments for both of us, a quick trip to Little Falls for me, a research paper for the Texas Gal, an impending visit – routine, we think – by the city rental inspector, and some planning for a weekend trip to see a concert. And we’re both feeling a slight bit frazzled.

So instead of working real hard to find something to write about this morning, I let the calendar do the lifting, as I sometimes do. It’s March 3, or 3/3, so I decided to look at some tunes that were No. 33 on 3/3 over the years.

During this week in 1959, the 33rd spot in the Billboard Hot 100 was occupied by Johnny Cash’s cautionary tale, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.” The tale of Billy Joe’s deadly visit to a cattle town had peaked at No. 32 and was on its way back down the chart, one of fifty-nine Hot 100 singles Cash would notch during his career. On the country chart, the record spent six weeks at No. 1.

During the first week of March in 1963, Marvin Gaye’s first Top 40 hit was encouraging listeners either to dance or to get out on the highway and catch a ride out of town. “Hitch Hike” was at No. 33 forty-eight years ago this week, heading for a peak position of No. 30. The record, the second of an eventual fifty-nine Hot 100 hits for Gaye, went to No. 12 on the R&B chart.

Fifty-nine charting hits, like Cash and Gaye each marked, is a lot. But four years later, in March of 1967, the No. 33 record in the Hot 100 was one from the record holder for the most charted hits ever. Elvis Presley’s “Indescribably Blue,” as melodramatic a record as there is, was the ninety-eighth of an eventual 165 charting hits for Presley. It went no higher than No. 33.

Another performer who racked up an impressive total of chart hits was in the 33rd spot in the Hot 100 when March 3, 1971 rolled around. Gladys Knight’s “If I Were Your Woman” was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 9 (and its writers – Clay McMurray, Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer – get bonus points for the correct use of the subjunctive with the word “were”). The record was the twenty-first of an eventual forty-eight records in the Hot 100 for Knight, forty-six of those – if I’m reading things correctly – coming with the Pips.

The first week of March in 1975 finds another major chart machine in the thirty-third spot in the Hot 100, as Chicago’s “Harry Truman” was on its way to No. 13. The ode to the thirty-third (there’s that number again!) president of the United States was a nostalgic post-Watergate expression of dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. It was also the nineteenth of an eventual fifty charting hits for Chicago.

And we’ll end today’s exercise in 1979. Sitting at No. 33 during the week of March 3, 1979, was “Shake It,” the fifth of six charting hits for Ian Matthews. The first three of those hits had come with his group Matthews Southern Comfort; he had also been a founding member of the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention. As well as peaking at No. 13 in early 1979, “Shake It” shows up in a couple of different places in pop culture, according to Wikipedia: It was used in the opening moments of the 1980 movie Little Darlings, and it can be heard on a radio during the video game The Warriors.

A Concert Dim In Memory

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Even during my student and young adult years – the years 1970 to 1983 – I never went to a large number of concerts. I saw acts as they came through St. Cloud – most of those at St. Cloud State – and on occasion went to the Twin Cities for a show.

In St. Cloud during that time, my concerts began with the Fifth Dimension in the autumn of 1970 and closed with Leon Russell in the autumn of 1977. My Twin Cities concert list during those years started with a Joe Cocker show in April 1972 and ended with a Jackson Browne performance during the summer of 1980.

I remember pretty well almost every concert I went to during those years. That’s why it sometimes surprises me when I realize that I once saw the San Francisco band It’s A Beautiful Day in concert and don’t recall much about the show. The concert took place in St. Cloud State’s Halenbeck Hall gym, and it was sometime in early 1973, I think, most likely in the spring. But not much of it stuck with me.

(As it turns out, as indicated in the note below from the St. Cloud State University archivist, the concert actually took place in the autumn of 1971 during St. Cloud State’s Homecoming celebration. So most of the following reasons as to why the concert is dim in my memory do not apply. It may simply be, as I note a couple paragraphs below, that I was unfamiliar with most of the band’s music so not much stuck with me. Note added September 29, 2015.)

I suppose it might have been 1972, but I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the major spring concert at St. Cloud State in 1972 was by Elton John, and I recall that show well. And it makes some sense that a concert by It’s A Beautiful Day in spring 1973 might be dim in memory:

First of all, that was the spring when I was preparing to spend my next school year in Denmark, and planning for that adventure took up a lot of time and a lot of my mental energy. Second, that spring followed the winter during which I discovered The Table at the student union, and the sudden influx of a large number of friends into my life took a lot of my attention, too. Not that I began to ignore the friends who’d gotten me that far; I think I saw It’s A Beautiful Day with Rick. But my social life was more full and diverse than it had ever been, and it’s possible that the concert – instead of being a major event – became just one tile in the mosaic that was my life at the time.

Finally, I think the concert has faded from my memory because I really didn’t know the band’s music all that well. I had none of the group’s five albums, and there was only one recording by the band that I was truly aware of. It’s the same recording that I think everyone thinks of at first when It’s A Beautiful Day is mentioned: ‘White Bird.”

And I do recall the murmur in the crowd followed by applause when David LaFlamme began to pick the song’s opening riff on his five-string violin. And he and singer Patti Santos and the rest of the band gave us about ten minutes of “White Bird.” (Linda LaFlamme, who shares the vocal with her husband of the time on the original 1969 recording, had long since left the group by the time of the St. Cloud concert.) I also have a vague visual memory of David LaFlamme going all gypsy on his violin during an extended solo. But that one song is all I remember.

There’s no doubt that “White Bird” is a haunting piece of music, one that got a tremendous amount of FM airplay during 1969 and the first years of the 1970s. There were other tracks on the band’s albums that likely deserved some attention, too, but as it’s turned out, “White Bird” somehow sums up at least one portion of the San Francisco musical ethos of the era. And that’s why it’s one of the tunes on the Ultimate Jukebox. 

White bird
Dreams of the aspen trees with their dying leaves turning gold.
But the white bird just sits in her cage growing old.

White bird must fly or she will die.
White bird must fly or she will die.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 6
“White Bird” by It’s A Beautiful Day from It’s A Beautiful Day [1969]
“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps, Buddah 165 [1970]
“Out In The Country” by Three Dog Night, ABC/Dunhill 4250 [1970]
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, Tamla 54201 [1971]
“T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia),” by MFSB featuring the Three Degrees, Philadelphia International 3540 [1974]
“The Captain of Her Heart” by Double from Blue [1986]

As I wrote once before, hearing the Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child” always reminds me of the morning I pulled into a parking lot and jumped from my car to call a oldies station’s trivia line – this in the days before cell phones – and then watched my car begin to roll back into the street as I was hanging up. I was lucky twice that morning: First, there was no traffic heading my car’s direction as I ran to it and found the brake, and second, I won a free pizza for identifying the record just from its introduction. And you know what? I still like the record, which went to No. 8 during the summer of 1970. Key lines:

Some day, yeah, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.
Some day, when the world is much brighter.

“Out In The Country” fits into a couple of categories as a pop song. It falls right into the clutch of songs and records that I call “get back to the land” tunes. It’s hard to tell whether the narrator – the song was written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols – is heading to the country forever or just for the afternoon, but it still holds the idea that things are better away from the city. And it is, I think, one of the earliest-charting pop songs to have a clear ecological bent; we’d call it a “green record” these days. The record was Three Dog Night’s seventh Top 40 hit, rising to No. 15 during the late summer and early autumn of 1970. Key lines:

Before the breathin’ air is gone,
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime.
Out where the rivers like to run,
I stand alone and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’.

In The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh wrote: “‘What’s Goin’ On’ is the matrix from which was created the spectrum of ambitious black pop of the seventies: everything from the blaxploitation sounds of Curtis Mayfield to Giorgio Moroder’s pop-disco. Not bad for a record whose backing vocalists include a pair of pro football players.” The football players were Mel Farr and Lem Barney of the Detroit Lions, and according to Songfacts.com, the pair and Gaye used the phrase “What’s goin’ on?” as a frequent greeting, providing Gaye with the title for not only his socially conscious song but for his equally aware album. The record – as beautiful as it is powerful – spent three weeks at No. 2 on the pop chart and five weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart. (The album went to No. 6, with two more songs hitting the Top 40: “Mercy Mercy Me” went to No. 4, and “Inner City Blues” went to No. 9.) Key lines (that sadly still resonate today):

Mother, mother,
There’s too many of you crying.
Brother, brother, brother,
There’s far too many of you dying.

Turning to Dave Marsh once again, he said that “T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” was what disco sounded like in the test tube. And he’s right. It would still be a couple of years before disco would take over the airways and the dance floors, but when you listen to MFSB and the Three Degrees, you can hear what was the future – or a good-sized slice of the future, anyway – in the grooves. Most disco music, as it turned out, eventually bored me (and I don’t think I was alone in that reaction), and only two true disco records will show up in this feature as we move along, but “T.S.O.P.” was something fresh and new and exciting when it hit the airwaves and went to No. 1 for two weeks in the spring of 1974. It may no longer be fresh and new, but on those rare occasions when it pops up, it’s still exciting. And the record’s only real lyrics were nevertheless right on message:

People all over the world: It’s time to get down!

Some records simply sound like a certain time of the day or night, no matter when one hears them, as I alluded to not long ago when I wrote about the Church’s “Under The Milky Way.” To me, Double’s moody “The Captain of Her Heart” is two in the morning. It’s a cold cup of coffee and a window and a city street with maybe one car passing by in an hour’s time. But it’s still a beautiful piece of work. The single edit of the record went to No. 16 in the late summer and autumn of 1986. The group produced two videos for the record: one evidently intended for the European market based on the single and the one embedded below that used the album track and was tagged as the “United States version.” And I guess the opening lines remain the key lines:

It was way past midnight,
And still she couldn’t fall asleep.
This night the dream was leaving
She tried so hard to keep.