Posts Tagged ‘Raiders’

Chart Digging: Early June 1972

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

I was introduced to beerball in the spring of 1972. The concept was simple: Everyone in a group – in this case, the staffers at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student radio station – chipped in a minimal amount of money, and two or three drinking-age staffers headed to the liquor store. Those two or three staffers would then meet the rest of the crew at a softball diamond somewhere near campus, bringing with them a couple of cases of cheap beer. With teams somehow selected, softball play began, except everyone always had a bottle of beer at hand.

If you were at bat, you placed your bottle a short distance from home plate. If you got a hit or otherwise reached base, there was an automatic time out for you to go back to home plate, retrieve your beer and bring it with you onto the base paths. Fielders had their bottles nearby, and if a batted ball hit a beer bottle, it was an automatic out. And when a player in the field emptied his or her bottle before the inning was over, it was his or her right to call a timeout in order to come in to the cooler to get another beer to take back into the field.

The weekly games usually took place on Wednesday afternoon, beginning sometime after three o’clock or whenever enough of us could break away from classes and our duties at the radio station. They ended, if memory serves me, somewhere between seven and eight o’clock, when many of us would wobble downtown for something to eat. (And for those who, unlike me, were of legal drinking age in the spring of 1972, most likely more beer or related beverages: Wednesday night was party night in St. Cloud in the early 1970s, as early classes did not meet Thursday mornings.)

Sometimes, we drank Cold Spring, a beer brewed in the little town of that name just fifteen miles southwest of St. Cloud. The brewery still exists, now producing microbrews and beers for various other brewers; its best product is probably John Henry Three Lick Spiker Ale. Forty years ago, in the days before craft beers and before any of us had full-time paychecks, we drank the cheap stuff. And Cold Spring was cheap and not all that good.

Other times, we’d dig into a couple of cases of Buckhorn, a budget beer brewed – if I read Wikipedia correctly – by the folks who brewed Lone Star Beer in Texas. Buckhorn was bad beer, too. I knew that even then, but it was a perfectly good beer at the time to carry on the way from first to second base.

As we played beerball, we had music, of course. Sometimes we’d listen on a portable FM radio to whichever poor schmuck was stuck on air back at the KVSC studios and couldn’t get out to play beerball. More often than not, though, we had an AM radio tuned – most likely – to KDWB in the Twin Cities. And if – as seems likely – we played beerball forty years ago this week, we no doubt heard (and groaned at) a good share of the Billboard Top Ten:

“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension

I didn’t care for much of that Top Ten forty years ago, and time has not changed that. Out of those, there are only three that I’d enjoy hearing with any regularity: The Staple Singers, the Chi-Lites and the first of the two Billy Preston titles. And I can gladly go years without hearing “The Candy Man” ever again.

Luckily, there are some better things lower down in the Hot 100 from June 10, 1972, so let’s head that way.

When Stephen Stills released Manassas in the spring of 1972, it was a solo album with a stellar supporting cast (Chris Hillman, Dallas Taylor, Paul Harris, Fuzzy Samuels, Al Perkins and Joe Lala with cameos from Sidney George, Bill Wyman and Byron Berline). A year later, recording under the name of Manassas, the same group of musicians (with a few extra folks) released Down the Road. That always kind of confused me when I was a casual record buyer and didn’t really have any reference books to figure out stuff like that. Anyway, sitting at No. 62 forty years ago this week was “It Doesn’t Matter” from Manassas. A decent enough record, it would go one spot higher.

Just two spots further down, at No. 64, sits a great piece of power pop/boogie from the Raiders. “Powder Blue Mercedes Queen” was the Raiders’ third record to hit the Hot 100 since “Indian Reservation” went to No. 1 in early 1971. But like the previous two entrants, “PBMQ” would fall short of that rarified position, peaking at No. 54. Stylistically, it was a long way from the Raiders’ two country-rock-ish previous releases (“Birds of a Feather” and “Country Wine,” which went to Nos. 23 and 51 respectively). As good as it was, I imagine it didn’t sound the way folks expected the Raiders to sound.

According to the legend, Ringo Starr caught a performance by English singer-songwriter Chris Hodge and got him signed to Apple Records. Hodge’s website says, “Ringo and Chris shared a common interest in sci-fi and UFOs,” which led to Apple releasing Hodge’s trippy “We’re On Our Way” with its references to saucers and astral moonbeams. The record was sitting at No. 69 forty years ago this week, on its way to No. 44. It was the only release by Hodge to reach the chart.

Just a little further down, we find some early boogie by ZZ Top. The first charting single for the Texas trio, “Francene” was sitting at No. 77 and would eventually get to No. 69. As the Seventies moved along and turned into the Eighties, of course, ZZ Top became a fixture in the Top 40 with a couple of No. 8 hits (“Legs” in 1984 and “Sleeping Bag” in 1985). As for “Francene,” one of the commenters at YouTube noted the Rolling Stones-like cries of “Whee!” (or however one might spell it) in the last few moments. Not sure about anyone else, but they work for me.

Sitting at No. 83, we find what I think is one of Rod Stewart’s best vocal performances ever with “In A Broken Dream” from the Australian group Python Lee Jackson. The song was recorded in the 1960s, before Stewart became a star, according to Wikipedia: “Believing his vocals were not correct for the song, [songwriter and Python Lee Jackson member Dave] Bentley brought in Rod Stewart . . . as a session musician for the song.” Wikipedia goes on to note that Stewart was paid for the session with a new set of seat covers for his car. First released in 1970, the record did not make the charts. In 1972 (not coincidentally after Stewart was a star), the record went to No. 56 in the U.S. before becoming a No. 3 hit in the United Kingdom.

I’ve written about my admiration for Jackie DeShannon before, and I was hoping to share a video of her “Vanilla Ólay,” which was sitting at No. 99 forty years ago this week. But that’s not possible, says YouTube. A closer look at the copies I have of the Billboard Hot 100, however, shows that “Vanilla Ólay” was the A-Side of a double-sided single, with DeShannon’s cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” on the B-Side. That’s not the way Joel Whitburn has it listed in Top Pop Singles, but I’m going to give you “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” anyway. The single – however it was promoted – went to No. 76.

Chart Digging: February 1972

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

As the winter of 1971-72 was thinking about loosening its grip, right about this time thirty-nine years ago, I spent the second of two weekends visiting friends in Stearns Hall, one of the men’s dorms at St. Cloud State.

I was staying with a couple of guys I knew, the guys who were the foundation of my social life on campus for a good chunk of that freshman year. I’d met them late the previous summer, when we’d occupied adjacent rooms during an overnight campus orientation for incoming freshmen. Living no more than a mile from the campus, I really didn’t need the overnight accommodations for the orientation, but I signed up anyway, hoping to meet some people.

And I did. Rick from Wyoming, Minnesota, and Dave from (I think) St. Paul were good guys, and through them, during the school year, I met others, guys and gals both. We all ate lunch together almost every day. We spent good chunks of a couple evenings a week and most weekends together. And twice during the year, I packed a small suitcase and rolled up a sleeping bag on a Friday afternoon and stayed on campus for the weekend.

During the first weekend, which took place in October, I think, we’d spent Friday evening (and early Saturday morning) at one of St. Cloud’s nearly countless keggers, sipping foamy beer from plastic cups. The party was on the northwest end of town, some distance from campus. I recall riding in the back seat in the early morning with one of the other guys driving vaguely and amid much laughter in the general direction of the college, which we eventually found. (From the perspective of almost forty years, that drive was, of course, chillingly unwise and unsafe, but that didn’t deter us.)

After whiling away Saturday’s daytime – spent hanging around with other dorm friends, shooting hoops on the parking lot, visiting a downtown record store or two and buying snacks at the nearby grocery store – we again found a party on Saturday night, this one close to campus, so our drunken post-party trip back to the dorm was shorter and on foot. On Sunday, sometime after lunch, I went home.

As I planned my February stay with the guys, I expected the weekend to be similar. It was and it wasn’t, but two things make that second weekend I spent on campus stand out:

First, somehow – and the details were cloudy then and are even more so after nearly forty years – Rick from Kilian Boulevard joined us in our Saturday evening partying. That was fine with my on-campus pals; they’d met Rick during visits to the East Side, so he came along as we found a party or two close to campus for the evening and then made our ways back to the dorm sometime after midnight.

Second, while chatting earlier that week with a secretary in Headley Hall – one of the buildings where I’d scrubbed and polished floors the summer before – I’d been introduced to a young woman who was a student worker there. Near the bookstore Friday morning, I ran into the same young woman. In the course of our conversation, I asked her if she wanted to hang around with us on Friday evening. She did so, and we got along well, which led to me spending a couple of hours with her on Sunday. That pairing didn’t last long, but its beginnings made the on-campus weekend more memorable yet.

There were no more on-campus weekends for me that year, but I continued to spend a lot of my free time with Dave and Wyoming Rick until the academic year ended and they went home for the summer. By fall, however, I found myself moving in other directions and spending time with other people.

So it’s likely very normal that I’ve lost touch over the years with the folks from my freshman year of college. The college friends I still know come from three sources: The Table in Atwood, my Denmark group, or my fellow mass communications students. I do know where a couple of those first-year friends are: One of the women – Dave’s girlfriend for a good chunk of that freshman year – teaches in the same school district as my sister. And Dave is a writer based in Colorado, and has done some teaching. But beyond some perfunctory emails – “Yeah, life is fine and didn’t we have a good time back then?” – they’re gone from my life and I’m gone from theirs.

Their entrances and exits mattered, though: I recall the months before I met the Texas Gal in early 2000. During the summer of 1999, I was in a romance, the first I’d had in about ten years. It didn’t last long as a romance – a friendship still exists – and eleven years ago this week, the Texas Gal and I met. I believe that the summer pairing that didn’t last – as painful as that was – prepared me for the one that did last. In other words, as well as being enriching and difficult and fun and all the other stuff, that first romance in years helped make me ready for the Texas Gal.

And I think the same thing holds true about those friendships from my freshmen year, when all of us, I think, were trying to find out where we fit in. Even though none of those friendships has lasted, they did their work: In the years that followed, I found the places that Wyoming Rick and Dave and the others had helped me look for during that first year.

Part of that looking involved music, of course. It was Dave who introduced me to the Doors’ The Soft Parade and the long version of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” two of his favorites. When records weren’t turning during our gatherings, the radio was on. And I know that I heard at least one of the records in the Billboard Top Ten from February 19, 1972 during those quiet Sunday hours I spent with my new young ladyfriend:

“Without You” by Nilsson
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Hurting Each Other” by the Carpenters
“Precious and Few” by Climax
“Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night
“Down by the Lazy River” by the Osmonds
“American Pie (Parts 1 and 2)” by Don McLean
“Joy” by Apollo 100
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John
“Everything I Own” by Bread

That’s not a very distinctive Top Ten. The Nilsson, the Al Green and “American Pie” are welcome any time. Other than that, there’s nothing that I either really like or really dislike today although I was not fond of “Down by the Lazy River” at the time. I did hear “Precious and Few” far more often than necessary back then as Dave and his ladyfriend had tagged it as their song.

One record I didn’t hear enough back then – I’m not sure I heard it at all – is Wilson Pickett’s R&B version of “Fire and Water,” the title tune to Free’s 1970 album. Pickett’s brilliant reimagining of the tune (Free’s version is here) was sitting at No. 24 – its peak position in the Billboard Hot 100 – thirty-nine years ago this week. On the R&B chart, Pickett’s cover version spent two weeks at No. 2.

In 1970, Paul Revere and the Raiders had dropped Revere’s name to become simply the Raiders, and in 1971, they’d scored a No. 1 hit with “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Indian Reservation)” and reached No. 23 with “Birds of a Feather.” Their next appearance in the Hot 100 came from “Country Wine,” a pretty decent record that brings back memories of Boone’s Farm wine shared with those freshman year friends. (Hey, we were young and poor and knew no better!) The record was at No. 51 this week in 1972 and would go no higher.

Dropping a little bit further, we find a striking bit of vocal R&B at No. 64: “Love Gonna Pack Up (And Walk Out)” by the Persuaders. The record was the second by the Harlem group to hit the Hot 100; the classic “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” had gone to No. 15 in 1971 and had spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. “Love Gonna Pack Up . . .” didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 64 on the pop chart and making it to No. 8 on the R&B chart. But it’s just as atmospheric as “Thin Line . . .” and maybe more interesting, at least to me, for not having been heard as much over the years.

The Grass Roots’ “Glory Bound” doesn’t wander far away from the sound that had brought the band – staffed by a changing group of players behind singer Rob Grill – a total of eighteen Hot 100 hits through 1971. Well, maybe the piano is a bit more prominent than usual, but once the record gets going, the sound is familiar. And that sound worked again, to a degree, as “Glory Bound,” which was at No. 72 during this week in 1972, eventually made it to No. 34. It’s a good record, which I’m not sure I would have said back then, being pulled toward more “serious” rock music by the people I knew at the campus radio station. (The Grass Roots would have three more hits in the Hot 100, with one of them – “The Runaway” from later in 1972 – barely reaching the Top 40 and peaking at No. 39.)

The Fabulous Counts were a funk band from Detroit, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, and they hit the Hot 100 in the spring of 1970 with “Get Down People,” which went to No. 88 on the pop chart and to No. 32 on the R&B chart. In early 1972, the group was back in the Hot 100 but had changed its name to Lunar Funk. The group’s single “Mr. Penguin, Pt. 1” was a funky instrumental with brief spoken interjections by the titular Mr. Penguin. The record was at No. 82 during the third week of February 1972 and would peak at No. 63. It was the last hit for the group under any name.

Terry Black was a Canadian singer who (barely) hit the charts in 1964 at the age of fifteen: “Unless You Care” reached No. 99. More than seven years later, he and his wife, Laurel Ward, got almost halfway up the Hot 100, reaching No. 57 with “Goin’ Down (On the Road to L.A.).” During the third week of February, the record was in the second week of its climb and was sitting at No. 87. There’s nothing remarkable about the record, but it’s got a decent hook and decent production, and it sounds like a lot of other stuff from the time. (The record was also released in Canada, but I don’t know how well it did there.)