Posts Tagged ‘Neil Diamond’

Chart Digging: May 11, 1968

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A couple of days ago, I posted a preview of today’s post, a video of Los Bravos’ 1968 single “Bring A Little Lovin’,” which ended up peaking at No. 51. What I forgot to mention in that preview was that in the Billboard Hot 100 of May 11, 1968 – forty-three years ago today – the record was sitting at No. 135, on the very last rung of the Bubbling Under section of the chart, with nothing underneath it but air.

And it was a great record.

That, to me, is the joy of these Chart Digging posts, finding record that were never huge hits but are still records worth hearing. Now, a good number of the records I highlight from the lower levels of the Hot 100 aren’t nearly as good as the Los Bravos side I highlighted earlier this week. After all, I do enjoy records that are odd, and I do shed light on some that are horrendously bad. But they’re all fun, especially those that deserved a wider hearing than they got.

So, armed with some books and the irreplaceable assistance of folks who post obscure music at YouTube, I went looking for gems in the lower levels of the May 11, 1968 chart.

As a point of reference, here are the tunes that were in the Top Ten in that chart:

“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro
“Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells
“Young Girl” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” by Hugo Montenegro
“Cry Like A Baby” by the Box Tops
“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals
“Cowboys to Girls” by the Intruders
“The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers
“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Lady Madonna” by the Beatles

Well, except for the Goldsboro single, that’s a nice set. The Irish Rovers’ tune isn’t all that great, either, but it’s not nearly as bad as “Honey.” And there are some obvious gems in there.

There are a few gems in the far reaches of the Hot 100, too. And I’ve found a couple of things that are more cut glass than gem, but they’re worth a look, too.

 Among the music the Texas Gal brought with her to Minnesota almost a decade ago was a multi-disc set of Neil Diamond’s music. For me, one of the great surprises in that set was a tune called “Brooklyn Roads.” Brooklyn after World War II – because of its ethnic make-up, because of its proximity to and distance from Manhattan, because of the Dodgers – has become a myth unto itself, and it seems to me that any creative artist who makes the post-war borough a central part of any work risks sliding into cliché. But drawing on his childhood and youth in that New York borough, Diamond manages not only to avoid most clichés (the butcher shop downstairs, true though it might be, is one), but sketches a detailed and moving portrait of himself in that urban setting.

“Brooklyn Roads” was at No. 98 forty-three years ago today and would climb as high as No. 58. By May 1968, Diamond had already placed nine records in the Hot 100; he’d wind up with fifty-six, thirteen of them in the Top Ten and three at No. 1.

Most folks my age think of Michelle Lee as the gal who played Karen MacKenzie on Knots Landing, the CBS television drama that ran from 1979 into 1993. (That span of years surprised me; I had no clue the show was around for that long.) But in 1968, Michelle Lee made her one appearance in the Hot 100 when “L. David Sloane” went to No. 52. It’s a cute record, and in the Hot 100 from forty-three years ago today, it was at No. 72.

As 1967 had turned to 1968, the Lemon Pipers had found their way to No. 1 with “Green Tambourine,” a pleasant confection from the bubblegum factory at Buddah. By the time the spring of 1968 rolled around, the Pipers and the Buddah production folks were grasping at straws. Sitting at No. 101 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade),” a mess of a record redeemed only by what I think are a few slightly naughty double entendres. (Read the lyrics included with the video.) Abysmal as it was, “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade)” managed to get to No. 51. [In a comment below, friend and frequent commenter Yah Shure notes that the video originally linked was the album version of the recording. I’ve since linked to the single version. which he said was a favorite of his at the time. The album version is here.]

Despite knowing many bits of Beatles trivia, I was unaware of the group called Grapefruit until this morning. My first thought when I listened to “Elevator” was that it sounded a fair amount like the Beatles and Badfinger. So I did some digging: Grapefruit was formed by George Alexander, who was also signed as a songwriter by the Beatles’ Apple Music Publishing Ltd. And the group, according to Wikipedia, got some help from the Beatles: “The group was launched by the Beatles with a press conference in 1968, on January 17, with the first single ‘Dear Delilah’. It went to number 21 in the UK single chart in February 1968. Paul McCartney directed a promo film (never released) for the single ‘Elevator’. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended and helped in their recording sessions for the singles, as Grapefruit didn’t have a producer at the time.” Forty-three years ago today, “Elevator” was at No. 113, and it would go no higher. But it sounds better than that. So I consider the information from Wikipedia, the credit “Produced by: Apple Music Ltd.” on the single and the general sound of the record, and it all makes sense.

Another good track I found this morning was a slice of propulsive British R&B. Sitting at No. 126 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Looking Back” by the Spencer Davis Group. I have to wonder how a record this good can miss, but it didn’t do well, climbing only another thirteen spots before disappearing. It was the last time the Spencer Davis Group would come close to the Hot 100.

Near the bottom of the Bubbling Under section from the May 11, 1968, Hot 100, we find the Gentrys. After “Keep On Dancing” got to No. 4 in 1965, the band from Memphis kept on trying to replicate that record’s performance. Five more singles on MGM failed to reach the Top 40 (three of them bubbled under but failed to crack the Hot 100), and the band ended up at Bell Records in early 1968. “I Can’t Go Back To Denver” was at No. 133 in the Bubbling Under section on this date in 1968. It would rise one more spot, to No. 132, before falling out of the chart. I thought it was a pretty good single. (After that, the Gentrys went to Sun Records and saw five more singles reach the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section although none hit the Top 40. The best performance came from their No. 52 version of “Cinnamon Girl,” which I wrote about briefly last month.)

Chart Digging: January 27, 1968

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

So what was your faithful narrator doing as January rolled toward its ending in 1968? Well, besides playing my very first tabletop hockey season with Rick and Rob – I’d gotten my game for Christmas the month before – I was heading into the second semester of ninth grade. And one of the classes I recall best from that time is Dick Wilger’s social studies class.

On a regular basis, the students in Mr. Wilger’s class were required to give brief reports on current events, basically reviews of newspaper or magazine pieces. It seems, thinking back, that I gave about four such reports during the school year, all of them based on stories pulled from Sports Illustrated. (I’d begun subscribing to the magazine earlier in the school year, my passion for spectator sports having just started to flower.) I recall that one of the reports I presented was about the early days of the American Basketball Association, then in the first year of its brief life (1967-76). Another was likely about the death in January 1968 of hockey player Bill Masterson of the Minnesota North Stars, which remains the only fatality from a game injury in the history of the National Hockey League.

But I recall Dick Wilger’s ninth-grade social studies class even more because of the career aptitude test we took one day. The results said the communications field would likely suit me; among the careers listed there were disk jockey and sports play-by-play announcer. I imagine newspaper reporter was also listed there, but I didn’t notice anything once I saw those first two jobs listed. I pretty much decided right then that I was going to get a degree in radio, and I was going to earn my living as a sports reporter and play-by-play announcer, probably covering hockey.

That’s not quite how it worked out, of course. I got my degree in radio-TV, yes, but I ended up in newspapering for a number of reasons, the largest one being my ability to imitate a wooden statue when confronted with camera or microphone. But being a newspaper reporter instead of broadcasting Minnesota North Stars games was really only a shift inside the larger world of mass communications; the path to the Monticello Times and all the other newspapers where I left my byline over the years began with the results of that aptitude test in Mr. Wilger’s classroom sometime in early 1968.

The idea of following the other path mentioned – being a disk jockey – did have some appeal. But I didn’t know Top 40 music well enough yet for that idea to grab hold of me and shake me all over. That music was all around me, of course, but I had yet to embrace it the way most of my peers had. Here’s what they – and I, by default – were listening to that week in the Billboard Top Ten for January 27, 1968:

“Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band
“Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers
“Woman, Woman” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“Bend Me, Shape Me” by the American Breed
“Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
“Spooky” by the Classics IV
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & the Pips
“If I Could Build My Whole Word Around You”
                      by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

That’s a great Top Ten. Puckett could be a little overblown, I guess, but other than that, there’s not a thing wrong with that bunch. And, as usual, there were some interesting things further down in the Billboard Hot 100.

Henson Cargill’s “Skip A Rope,” a laconic cataloging of social ills, was sitting at No. 35 on its way to No. 25. If that description – an accurate one – makes the record sound unappealing, think again. Cargill’s only Hot 100 hit is a compelling listen, and it was No. 1 on the country chart for five weeks. Cargill – who died in 2007 at the age of sixty-six – later had two other singles reach the country chart, one in 1973 and one in 1974, but neither went higher than No. 28.

One of the joys of digging into various weeks’ worth of the Billboard Hot 100 is finding records I’ve never heard before. And when one of those records comes from someone with a hit catalog as deep as Neil Diamond’s, the joy is increased. (And along with the joy comes the thought of “Why the hell haven’t I ever heard this before?”) In the January 27, 1968, Hot 100, my newly discovered Diamond is “New Orleans,” which was sitting at No. 52. A week later, it would peak at No. 51. It was Diamond’s tenth record in the Hot 100; he’d add forty-six more before the string ran out in 1986.

I shared a Jerry Butler album – The Ice Man Cometh – in this space about three years ago, and I think I’ve written briefly about him a couple of other times. I really don’t know the man’s career well, except that I can say that I like everything of his I’ve ever heard. And that includes “Lost,” which was on that album and which I’d probably not thought about during the last three years. The record was sitting at No. 62 in the Hot 100 forty-three year ago today, and it would go no higher there, though it went to No. 15 on the R&B chart. It was Butler’s twenty-fourth record in the Hot 100; he’d end with up with forty-six, the last coming in 1977. (According to the list at All-Music Guide, which may or may not be complete, he had a few more records than that reach the R&B chart.) As the video poster’s introduction notes, “Lost” was produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who – in the 1970s – were among the chief architects of what was called the Philadelphia Sound.

From Chicago/Philadelphia soul, we shift to deep Southern Soul, as we find James Carr and “A Man Needs A Woman” at No. 80. Despite critical accolades, Carr’s imprint on the charts was relatively slight: six singles in the Hot 100 and nine on the R&B chart. Steve Huey of All-Music Guide notes: “Carr never achieved the pop crossover success that could have made him a household name, and his material wasn’t always as distinctive as that of Stax artists like [Otis] Redding or Sam & Dave. Ultimately, though, Carr’s greatest obstacle was himself: he was plagued for much of his life by severe depression that made pursuit of a career – or, for that matter, even single recording sessions – extraordinarily difficult, and derailed his occasional comeback attempts.” “A Man Needs A Woman” peaked at No. 63, where it spent the last week of February and the first two weeks of March. That equaled Carr’s best performance in the Hot 100; “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up” had reached No. 63 in 1966. On the R&B chart, “A Man Needs A Woman” peaked at No. 16.

From soul and soul to sunshine pop: At No. 87 during the week of January 27, 1968, sat the Epic Splendor and its one Hot 100 hit, “A Little Rain Must Fall.” The Epic Splendor – what a great name for a band! – was made up of five guys from Long Island who recorded this and at least one other single – based on a brief online search – for the also wonderfully named Hot Biscuit Disc Company. The record spent seven weeks in the Hot 100 and got no higher than No. 87.

The Mills Brothers’ career doesn’t look very impressive from the first glance at the group’s entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Nine records in the Hot 100 between 1955 and 1968. But a look at the fine print at the top of the entry shows another story: Between 1931 and 1954, the legendary vocal group had sixty-one hits, including five that went to No. 1. The record that caught my eye today was “Cab Driver,” the seventh of the Mills Brothers’ modern-era hits, sitting at No. 92 forty-three years ago today, en route to No. 23. The record also went to No. 3 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary, and that explains why I know the record as well as I do: I’m absolutely certain I heard it more than once from Dad’s bedside transistor radio – tuned as always to St. Cloud’s middle of the road station, KFAM – as we all prepared to retire.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I’ll certainly be back in two days with a Saturday Single.

My Verdict: ‘Rocket 88’ Was The First

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It’s time to throw my nickel into one of rock music’s enduring debates this morning: What was the first rock ’n’ roll record?

To my mind – dim as it sometimes can be – there are two candidates: “The Fat Man,” a 1950 record by Fats Domino, and “Rocket 88,” a 1951 single from Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (which was really Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm with saxophonist Brenston taking the lead vocal).

I come down on the side of “Rocket 88.” There’s nothing wrong at all with the Domino track: It’s got a rollicking beat, courtesy of its hometown, New Orleans. “They call, they call me the fat man because I weight two hundred pounds,” the record starts, and – co-written and co-produced by Domino and his long-time partner Dave Bartholomew – the single gets its business done in a tidy two minutes and thirty-six seconds and includes a middle section that showcases Domino’s falsetto.

Wikipedia says: “‘The Fat Man’ features Domino’s piano with a distinct back beat that dominates both the lead and the rhythm section. Earl Palmer said it was the first time a drummer played nothing but back beat for recording, which he said he derived from a Dixieland “out chorus.” Domino also scats a pair of choruses in a distinctive wah-wah falsetto, creating a variation on the lead similar to a muted Dixieland trumpet.”

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with “The Fat Man.” It’s got a great vocalist, a great team of writers and producers. The band was made up of top session players, including the magnificent Earl Palmer on drums. And it came out of New Orleans, a city and source of music that – based on my reading, my pondering and my gut – was the second most important city in the development of rock ’n’ roll.

The advantages that “Rocket 88” has over all of that history come down to two: It was recorded in Memphis, the most important city in rock ’n’ roll history, and it was recorded/produced by Sam Phillips.

Like “The Fat Man,” “Rocket 88” has a groove, but while Domino’s record seems dance, Brenston’s record drives, pulling the band and the listeners down the highway.

Wikipedia says: “The song was based on the 1947 song ‘Cadillac Boogie’ by Jimmy Liggins. It was also preceded and influenced by Pete Johnson’s “Rocket 88 Boogie” Parts 1 and 2, an instrumental, originally recorded for the Los Angeles-based Swing Time Records label in 1949.”

Wikipedia continues: “Working from the raw material of jump blues and swing combo music, Turner made it even rawer, starting with a strongly stated back beat by drummer Willie Sims, and superimposing Brenston’s enthusiastic vocals, his own piano, and tenor saxophone solos by 17 year old Raymond Hill . . . . The song also features one of the first examples of distortion, or fuzz guitar, ever recorded, played by the band’s guitarist Willie Kizart.”

(Basing new songs on versions of earlier songs – a practice that could draw charges of plagiarism today – was an accepted practice among musicians in the folk, blues and rhythm & blues communities and traditions. Domino’s song, Wikipedia notes, “is a variation on the traditional New Orleans tune, ‘Junker’s Blues’ number by Drive’em Down, which also provided the melody for Lloyd Price’s ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ and Professor Longhair’s ‘Tiptina.’” Two years later, with a faster beat and a few minor lyric changes, Big Mama Thornton released essentially the same song as Domino’s from a Los Angeles date for Peacock, singing, “Well, they call me Big Mama ’cause I weigh three-hundred pounds.”)

So what makes “The Fat Man” a good R&B song and what makes “Rocket 88” rock ’n’ roll? Well, one hesitates to pull the watch apart too much for fear of being left with a pile of gears, springs and little screws, but the Wikipedia quote above does identify the key ingredients of “Rocket 88”: Sims’ back beat, Brenston’s vocal, the solos and the fuzz guitar.

And then there’s Memphis and Sam Phillips, the owner and operator of the Memphis Recording Service, where “Rocket 88” was cut. I think, and I’m certainly not alone in this, that Memphis is the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. Chicago, New York, Detroit, Cincinnati (home of King Records) and, yes, New Orleans (and probably several other cities I have not mentioned) were instrumental in the development of the music, but – as Robert Gordon titled his fascinating book about the city’s musical traditions – it came from Memphis.

And it came from Sam Phillips’ studio. Jimmy Guterman, in Runaway American Dream, his 2005 assessment of Bruce Springsteen’s recording career, calls Phillips “the single most important non-performing figure in rock’n’roll,” noting that it was Phillips who, “along with folks like Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Charlie Rich, invented the past 50 years of popular music.”

There are other acceptable answers to the question “What was the first rock ‘n’ roll record?” All of those answers have reasons behind them: the recording date and location, the session personnel, the lead performer and ultimately, the way the record sounds and the way it makes the listener feel. My answer, as I indicated above, rests on its creation in Memphis and on Sam Phillips’ role in its creation. Oh, and one more thing: “Rocket 88” just flat out rocks.

(And no, I don’t know why Bettie Page shows up in the video.)

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 15
“Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, Chess 1458 [1951]
“Ferry ’Cross the Mersey” by Gerry & the Pacemakers, Laurie 3284 [1965]
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond, Uni 55175 [1969]
“Come And Get Your Love” by Redbone, Epic 11035 [1974]
“While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood, Island 49656 [1981]
“A Long December” by Counting Crows from Recovering the Satellites [1996]

In the box in which I keep the best of the four hundred or so 45s that I own, there resides a copy of Gerry & the Pacemakers’ “Ferry ’Cross the Mersey.” It belongs, actually, to my sister, who brought it home sometime during the early months of 1965, when the record was on its way to No. 6. I don’t think it was the first record she bought; I recall her buying bargain bags – ten 45s for a dollar – sometime earlier, but the thought tickles at me that “Ferry” might have been the first single she actively sought out when it was on the charts. I do remember her playing it for the first time on our old portable player, and I liked it at the time far more than I expected. Obviously, I still like it. And no, she can’t have it back.

The spookiness of “Holly Holy” grabbed hold of me late one evening in the fall of 1969 when I heard the record on – I assume – WJON shortly after I’d turned out the light to go to sleep. I wrote once before about hearing the song at dusk on a sliding hill, and that happened, but my first hearing was in the dark of my room. I found the song a little unsettling, what with the choir chanting – or seeming to – behind Diamond’s vocal, the percussion (tympani?), the swelling climax and the frequent use of what I now recognize as minor thirds. Nevertheless, I found the record appealing as well. I’m not sure about the unsettling part, but plenty of other folks found the record appealing, too, as it went to No. 6

The Redbone single is one of those I caught up to sometime after the fact. I was in Denmark when “Come And Get Your Love” entered the Top 40 and climbed to No. 5. By the time I got home in the latter portion of May, the record was in the last couple weeks of its eighteen-week stay in the Top 40, and its airplay was diminishing. I likely heard it during the last couple of weeks of spring and during the summer of 1974, but never enough to dig any further into Redbone or its music. That digging came later, during the vinyl-crazed years of the 1990s, probably after I found a Redbone LP at Cheapo’s and vaguely recalled the hit. With the possible exception of “The Witch Queen of New Orleans,” – a record that went to No. 21 in 1972 – nothing else in Redbone’s catalog approaches “Come And Get Your Love,” and it’s fun to hear it pop up every now and then surrounded by the other tunes in the Ultimate Jukebox.

Over all the years since I first dug into rock and pop and their relatives in the autumn of 1969, very few contemporary records have ever moved me to run off to the store in search of them. The last two of these six did just that. I was living in Monticello when Steve Winwood’s “While You See A Chance” started to get airplay on its way to No. 7 in early 1981. (It was also on its way to being Winwood’s first Top 40 hit, a fact that’s a little surprising in light of his long and celebrated career to that point.) Loving the synth-based intro and solos and the groove of the body of the song, my wife of the time and I invested a portion of a weekend in a shopping trip to one of the Twin Cities’ major malls. We picked up some other, more useful items – clothes, kitchen stuff and so on – but the highlight of the day for me was Winwood’s album Arc of a Diver, where the album track of “While You See A Chance” resided. (I believe the single was an edit, and I think that’s the audio on the linked YouTube video.) And twenty-nine years later, I still find the sound a little thrilling.

Another record that got me out into the shops was Counting Crows’ “A Long December,” which I heard on a Twin Cities’ radio station late in 1996, soon after Recovering the Satellites was released. (The track was never released as a single, if I read the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits correctly, but went to No. 6 on a chart based on airplay.) Seeking a vinyl copy of the album, I spent a good chunk of a Saturday morning making the rounds of four or five music stores near my home. I was discouraged and wandering the aisles of the last of the stores when another music lover came through the door and sold his copy of Recovering the Satellites. After the seller left, the clerk looked at me, eyebrows raised, and named a price. I paid it and went happily on my way. I still love the track, even after repeated listenings over the last thirteen-plus years, and I still marvel at one particular line: “The feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls.”

Diggin’ On Neil Diamond In The Basement

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Wherever I might have looked for a history lesson in 1970, Rick’s turntable was a pretty unlikely choice. But one day or evening during the summer of that year, he and I were hanging out in his room. He’d taken over half the basement and turned it into what was essentially a crash pad: a  mattress on the floor, a stereo, brick-and-board shelves filled with LPs, posters on the walls and a lava lamp. We spent a lot of time down there during the last years of the 1960s and the early years of the 1970s, listening to tunes and making our minds up about the things that really mattered in life; those topics ranged from the importance of the then-burgeoning environmental movement to the likely identity of the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie during the next NHL season.

But as diverse as our topics were, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I heard when Rick played Neil Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript. The fourth track on Side One, “Done Too Soon,” grabbed me and – at the same time – provided a little bit of a history lesson:

Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice.
Wolfie Mozart and Humphrey Bogart and
Genghis Khan and
On to H. G. Wells.

Ho Chi Minh, Gunga Din,

Henry Luce and John Wilkes Booth
And Alexanders
King and Graham Bell.

Rama Krishna, Mama Whistler,

Patrice Lumumba and Russ Columbo.
Karl and Chico Marx,
Albert Camus.

E. A. Poe, Henri Rousseau,
Sholom Aleichem and Caryl Chessman.
Alan Freed and
Buster Keaton too.

And each one these
Has one thing to share:
They have sweated beneath the same sun,
Looked up in wonder at the same moon,
And wept when it was all done
For bein’ done too soon.
For bein’ done too soon.

For bein’ done.

I was fascinated, and we listened to it again until I was certain I had all the names right. I knew all but two of them. I was unfamiliar with the name of American actor and singer Russ Columbo and with that of Alexander King. (There are two men by that name whom I think Diamond could have been referring to, one a writer, the other a scientist. I still have no idea which one he meant to name-check.)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely clear at the time why some of those men whom Diamond mentioned were prominent: For example, I knew Patrice Lumumba was African, but I didn’t know that he’d been the prime minister of the Republic of the Congo for a brief time in 1960 before being overthrown in a coup.

There were a few others where my data banks were slender as well: death row inmate Caryl Chessman, author Albert Camus and deejay Alan Freed were persons whose names I recognized without knowing why they were famous. And, of course, being a good sixteen-year-old Midwest Lutheran, I had no idea that Rama Krishna was, as Wikipedia notes, a famous Indian mystic of the nineteenth century.

I won’t say I ran out and began to find out about those men during that summer of 1970. But as time moved and on one occasion or another I learned why those men were famous, I’d make the connection to Diamond’s song and nod with a bit of private satisfaction.

And from that first hearing in Rick’s crash pad, “Done Too Soon” has been one of my favorites. Rick and I were fortunate enough at the end of that summer to hear Diamond perform the song in concert at the Minnesota State Fair. In fact, we heard it twice. We were in the open-air grandstand for Diamond’s first show of the evening, and then went back to wandering around the fair until it was time to meet my folks near the grandstand. We could hear Diamond performing his second show as we waited, and just before my folks showed up, we heard “Done Too Soon” one more time.

(The video above is pretty well done, but it requires some comment. When pulling a visual from the 1939 film, Gunga Din, the creator showed a still of the English characters played by Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., instead of Sam Jaffee’s Gunga Din, the title character created by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poem. And the video also showed a portrait of Alexander the Great instead of either the scientist or the writer named Alexander King.)

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 7
“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, Philles 116 [1963]
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton, Elektra 45687 [1970]
“Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond from Tap Root Manuscript [1970]
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette [1973]
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, ABC 11427 [1974]
“Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert from Jackrabbit Slim [1979]

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to separate Phil Spector’s brilliant work in the 1960s and 1970s from the events of recent years that culminated in murder. It’s difficult to do. But Spector’s Wall of Sound needed to be somewhere in this collection, so I went back to what I think what his most typical production, if not his greatest. The Crystals’ “Uptown” and “He’s A Rebel” might be better records by a little bit, but they don’t grab me at any moment like “Be My Baby” does with its introduction and then with Hal Blaine’s drum fills. So maybe this one – which went to No. 2 in the autumn of 1963 – makes the list more for Blaine’s work than for any other reason.

Continuing with uncertainty, I’m not sure I can relate what it is that qualifies Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back” for the Ultimate Jukebox. When it came blasting out of the radio speakers during the summer of 1970, it sounded about as tough as anything in the Top 40 at the time. (Glancing at the Billboard Top 40 for the last week of June 1970, I should acknowledge that Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” had some edge to it, as did CCR’s “Up Around the Bend.”) Add to that, I guess, that “Go Back” was a song I heard rarely on oldies radio over the years. That made it seem fresh when I came across Crabby Appleton’s first album during my early wanderings through music blogs. It wasn’t a huge hit: It went to No. 36. But it still sounds pretty good coming out of the speakers.

I still recall the first time I heard Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone.” It was spring break in 1975, and I was working with another student for St. Cloud State’s Learning Resources Services, wandering around campus and finding audiovisual equipment (as it was called in those days). We’d paint a black stripe over the large yellow letters that read “SCS LRS” and then, when the black paint dried, spray smaller white letters that read “SCS LRS.” My dad said the director of Learning Resources had never liked the yellow paint. Anyway, on one of those nine or so days, my co-painter and I grabbed some fast food and then went to his apartment for lunch. While we chowed, he dropped an LP on the stereo and cued up “She’s Gone.” I long ago forgot the guy’s name, which is too bad, because I still love the record and I’d like to say thanks. A single edit went to No. 60 in 1974 and then, on re-release, went to No. 7 in 1976. The only YouTube video I found of the album version when I originally created this post used the song behind, for some reason, visuals of Pam Grier in her roles as, evidently, Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and Sheba. But a newer, more rational video now allows me to present “She’s Gone” in a form I prefer.

The story is that Stevie Wonder stopped by for a visit one day when Rufus was in the studio. While more or less messing around, he wrote “Tell Me Something Good” on the spot and handed it over to the group, whose lead singer, Chaka Khan, did a hell of a job on the record. It’s a slinky, snaky, sexy record that provides a public service along the way: If you’re not twitching or at least moving a little bit as the record plays, get yourself to a doctor because you might be dead. The record, Rufus’ first hit, went to No. 3 during the summer of 1974.

I’ve said something like this before, but one of the worst things that can happen to any performer or act is to be tagged the next something. During the 1960s and 1970s, the bargain record bins were filled with LPs by folks who had been dubbed the new Beatles, the new Dylan, the new Baez, the new Cream and on and on. Very few performers or groups, it seems to me, can recover from that kind of promotional linkage. When Steve Forbert showed up in 1978 with his debut album, Alive on Arrival, some called him the new Dylan. He soldiered on, and although he never came close to living up to the weight of that tag – who could? – he’s put together a decent career that continues to this day. (He released his thirteenth studio album, The Place and the Time just about a year ago.)  He’s reached the Top 40 only once, in 1979, when the jaunty “Romeo’s Tune” went to No. 11. Why is it here? Partly because, as I’ve also said before, I’m a sucker for a descending bass line but also because – beyond that – I think it’s a great record.

(Edited slightly on January 24, 2014.)