It’s just after eight in the morning here on the East Side, and nothing much is moving out there. It’s been snowing on and off – mostly on – since yesterday morning. Officially, we’ve gotten 7.1 inches of snow so far, and odds are we’re going to get another three to four inches. Out in the driveway, the snow is about six inches deep, so neither the Texas Gal nor I are going anywhere for a while.
So with not much else to do except dig around in my collection of Billboard charts (not that I often need an excuse), I thought I’d take our snowfall total, move the decimal point and then take a look at what records were No. 71 on or around March 5 over the years. We’ll start in 1966, because that’s the earliest year I find when the magazine’s Hot 100 was actually issued on March 5. We’ll likely go back a few years from there, and then come this direction for a while.
And the day starts with a little bit of a puzzle: At No. 71 on March 5, 1966, we find the Righteous Brothers’ take on “Georgia On My Mind” making its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 62. The puzzle is that the record was released on the Moonglow label, and by March of 1965, the Righteous Brothers had left Moonglow far behind, joining and then leaving Phil Spector’s Philles label and then recording for Verve. In fact, “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” the Verve record that would become the Brothers’ second No. 1 hit (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” went to No. 1 in 1965), entered the Hot 100 the very same week, sitting at No. 90. It seems obvious that the release of “Georgia” was just the latest effort by Moonglow to get a slice of the Righteous pie: Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows five charting or near-charting Moonglow singles during the time the Righteous Brothers were recording for Philles. Then came “Georgia,” which was the Brothers’ last charting single on Moonglow. So it’s really not that much of a puzzle, I guess. But it did make me read the fine print a little bit more closely.
I have evidently been able to write more than a thousand posts about popular music without previously mentioning the name of Esther Phillips, also known as Little Esther, which strikes me as odd given my interest in 1960s R&B. Phillips, whose unique voice and delivery I like very much, had fifteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1975, with the first and last of them reaching the Top 40: “Release Me” went to No. 8 in late 1962, and “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes” reached No. 20 in the autumn of 1975. In March of 1963, three years back from today’s starting point, Phillips’ “I Really Don’t Want To Know” was at No. 71, a week after peaking at No. 61. (The linked video also includes the record’s B-side, “Am I That Easy To Forget.”) I should note that during the early 1950s, prior to the years covered by the Billboard Hot 100, Phillips had eight records reach the R&B Top 40, most of them recorded during her association with band leader Johnny Otis.
When we get to the first week of March 1960, we land in traditional pop territory, with Johnny Mathis’ “Starbright” taking up the No. 71 slot of that week’s Hot 100. The record was climbing toward its eventual peak at No. 25 and was the twentieth of an eventual fifty-three records Mathis would place in or near the Hot 100 between 1957 and 1984. That time-span includes, according to Whitburn, No. 1 records separated by more than twenty years. According to Top Pop Hits, “Chances Are” went to No. 1 during a twenty-eight week chart stay that started in September 1957 and lasted into March 1958, and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” Mathis’ collaboration with Deniece Williams, went to No. 1 in June of 1978. And here is a real puzzle: Whitburn has “Chances Are” going to No. 1 for one week during those twenty-eight weeks, but the week-by-week Billboard charts that I copped from a blog some years ago show “Chances Are” peaking at No. 5, and the record is not listed in Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of Number One Hits. I’m not sure at all what’s correct there.
Heading back to the other side of our starting point, we land on the chart released March 8, 1969, and find ourselves listening to a song better known, I think, for a later version. “Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren’s early band, the Nazz, was sitting at No. 71 in that 1969 chart. The record would go no higher, nor would it do very well – peaking at No. 66 – when it was rereleased a year later. It’s a good song, but the record seems painfully draggy. Of course, that’s because Rundgren recorded a more up-tempo version of the song and released it under his own name in 1973, when it went to No. 5. But you know, I think I’d find the Nazz version draggy and tedious even if Rundgren had never revisited the song. So we move on.
And in March of 1972, we land on a record at No. 71 that’s showed up here before and will always put a lump in my throat: “Waking Up Alone” by Paul Williams. The record was heading to a peak at No. 60, the best-performing of the three singles Williams placed in or near the Hot 100. Of course, I think it should have done much better, a judgment I’ve held since I first heard the record a little more than three years after its brief stay on the chart. Does it make me think of someone? No, it’s heartbreaking all by itself, which means that Williams succeeded at his craft to a degree that I wish I could match one time in my life. As I wrote here once, the record’s best part on a purely musical level is the saxophone that comes in near the end, “hanging around long enough to take a nice solo and then walk us home.”
Our last stop this morning is March of 1975, and we’re going country: Sitting at No. 71 thirty-eight years ago was “Linda On My Mind” by Conway Twitty. The tale of tangled love and heartache was on its way to No. 61 and was the next-to-last record out of twenty-five that Twitty would place in or near the Hot 100. It did much better on the country chart, of course, being one of forty No. 1 records overall for the Mississippi-born singer, a total that was tied for the most all-time with George Strait in 2006, when my edition of Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits was compiled. (A glance at Wikipedia this morning shows that Strait has since broken that tie with an additional four No. 1 records on the country chart.)