Posts Tagged ‘Meters’

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago (May 1970)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’ll head back to the last month of my junior year of high school, a time I recall as being among the best musical seasons of my life. (As to the other aspects of my life, well, I was sixteen and learning.)

Here’s the Top Ten from Billboard for the second week in May 1970:

“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Vehicle” by the Ides Of March
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Love Or Let Me Be Lonely” by the Friends Of Distinction
“Everything Is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by John Ono Lennon
“Turn Back The Hands Of Time” by Tyrone Davis
“Reflections Of My Life” by Marmalade

There’s no way I can critically assess most of those eleven records. They were my afternoon and evening companions during that long-ago spring. Ray Stevens’ record would elicit a groan when it came through the radio speakers, but the others were always welcome.

My rankings at the time would have put the records by the Friends Of Distinction and Tyrone Davis in ninth and tenth place, and they might have deserved better, being fine pieces of pop soul, a genre that wasn’t really in my wheelhouse back then. Even today, the best either one of them could do is sixth place, behind “Let It Be,” “Instant Karma,” “Spirit In The Sky,” “Reflections Of My Life,” and “Vehicle.”

I should note that the version of “Let It Be” I heard on the radio was the version produced by George Martin, and I was startled not long after this Top Ten came out when I bought the Let It Be album and heard the very different version Phil Spector came up with when he produced the album. Fifty years later, I still prefer the single version (though Spector’s version is not nearly as jarring now as it was then).

I think I’ve made reference over the years here to the three-day performing and touring trip by the St. Cloud Tech Concert Choir in the spring of 1970. Somebody brought a radio, and I’m certain we heard all eleven of those records. I specifically recall two of them – “Spirit In The Sky” and “Instant Karma” – competing with the conversation and laughter of about sixty high school seniors and juniors as we headed through the Minnesota night toward the Canadian border and the city of Winnipeg.

So those records are part of my musical DNA, and I’d guess that ten of them are in the iPod and thus are still part of my day-to-day listening. And I’m right. The only record of the eleven in that list at the top of the page that is not in the iPod is the Ray Stevens record. I imagine that somewhere from the years 1969 through 1972, I could find a Top Ten that’s an iPod sweep, but until that shows up, ten out of eleven is pretty damned good.

But what about our other business this morning? What do we find when we drop to No. 50? Well, we find a record that’s not on any of the shelves here: “Chicken Strut” by the Meters. So all we can do is note that the record went no higher, and then listen . . . and cluck.

Saturday Single No. 533

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Okay, we’re going to play Games With Numbers this morning and convert today’s date – 3/25/17 – into 45, and then we’re going to dig into six Billboard Hot 100s from the end of March during our sweet spot years and see what was at No. 45. Those six records will give us our options for today’s Saturday Single. As we normally do, we’ll check out the No. 1 records along the way.

We’ll start in 1965 and go forward two years at a time. And in late March of 1965, the No. 45 record in the Hot 100 was “Got To Get You Off My Mind” by Solomon Burke. For some reason, I’ve never paid much attention to Burke’s music, and that’s too bad (and not too wise, either), as he casts a fairly large shadow on the soul and R&B of the 1960s. “Got To Get You Off My Mind” is a pretty mellow piece of work, and Burke’s honeyed voice is, of course, well-suited for a short and somewhat upbeat tune marking the loss of a girlfriend. The record peaked at No. 22, the highest Burke would put a record in the Hot 100, but over on the R&B chart, it was No. 1 for three weeks.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 for March 27, 1965, was “Stop! In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes.

Moving ahead two years to 1967, we find Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” perched at No. 45. I don’t know much about Conley except for this one hit record, which makes sense as I look at his entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Of the eight other records Conley got into or close to the Hot 100, only 1968’s “Funky Street” hit the Top 20, going to No. 14. (I’ve heard “Funky Street,” but for some reason it’s not on the digital shelves.) As would be expected, the Atlanta-born singer did better on the R&B chart, where “Sweet Soul Music” was No. 2 for five weeks (and “Funky Street” went to No. 5 a year later). But “Sweet Soul Music” is, of course, more than its chart history, with its roll call of the greats of R&B: “Spotlight on Lou Rawls, y’all . . .”

Sitting at No. 1 exactly fifty years ago today – March 25, 1967 – was the Turtles’ “Happy Together.”

During the last week in March of 1969, the No. 45 record was the Meters’ funky instrumental “Sophisticated Cissy.” It was the first record by the New Orleans group to hit the Hot 100, and it peaked at No. 34, making it the Meters’ second-most successful single, behind “Cissy Strut,” which went to No. 23 just a few months later. The Meters put five more records into the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1977, but none of them went higher than No. 50. Oddly, although I have a couple of albums by the Meters on the digital shelves, I do not have “Sophisticated Cissy.” So there’s a hole I have to fill somehow, with probably a few other Meters gaps. The record went to No. 7 on the R&B chart.

The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1969 was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.

We head into March 1971 and the beginning of the end of my senior year of high school. During the fourth week of March that year, the No. 45 record was “I Am . . . I Said” by Neil Diamond. In the files I have of the weekly Hot 100, the record is listed at No. 45 as a double-sided single, with “Done Too Soon” on the flip. But according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Done Too Soon” peaked at No. 65, while “I Am . . . I Said” went to No. 4 on the pop chart and to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart. That’s too bad, as I like the B side better, although the A side would be okay if Diamond hadn’t done the deal about the chair not hearing. And, of course, the single – double-sided or not – was just one of what seems like a hundred Neil Diamond records to reach the chart. (The total is actually fifty-six.)

Sitting at No. 1 during that last week of March 1971 was “Me and Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin.

Sir Elton John shows up when we jump into March 1973 and take a look at the No. 45 record during the month’s last week. It turns out to be “Crocodile Rock,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 11 on the Easy Listening chart. There’s not a lot more to say about Sir Elton except that the first time I heard “Your Song” – his second Hot 100 record and the first thing I heard from him – I would not have guessed that he’d become the most popular artist of the 1970s and the third most popular of all time (as noted in Top Pop Singles). For those wondering, “Border Song” was his first Hot 100 record, going to No. 92 during the summer of 1970, just a few months before “Your Song” went to No. 8.

The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1973 was “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack.

And we end our Saturday jaunt with a look at the Hot 100 from the fourth week of March in 1975, when the No. 45 record was “Living A Little, Laughing A Little” by the Spinners, a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard until this morning. It fell right into the patch of great records by the group, and my guess is that it never got much play on the jukebox in Atwood Center at St. Cloud State. (My listening elsewhere was more album-oriented.) Maybe the record didn’t get much play on KDWB out of the Twin Cities or St. Cloud’s WJON, both of which got a little (but only a little) attention from me in those days. I don’t know, but listening to the record this morning rang no bells at all. The record went to No. 37 in the Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the R&B chart.

Parked at No. 1 during that fourth week of March 1975 was “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle.

So we’ve got an interesting assortment to choose from today, four bits of R&B and two big hits that lost their freshness long ago. And I think we’ll head back to 1969 and make the Meters’ funky “Sophisticated Cissy” today’s Saturday Single.