Posts Tagged ‘Rare Earth’

Saturday Single No. 481

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

It’s time to go digging in the Billboard pop charts in search of a single for a Saturday morning. Six times during the years that generally interest us here, the magazine has put out its weekly pop chart on January 23. So we’re going to look at those charts, check out which single was at No. 23, and then choose one of those for our weekly treat.

Along the way, as we generally do, we’ll check out the No. 1 single for each week.

We’ll start back before the Space Age began, in January 1957. “I Dreamed” by Betty Johnson sat at No. 23, on its way to No. 9. It’s a peppy love song in which the singer has fantastic dreams and realizes that they all lead back to her guy. It was Johnson’s biggest hit in a chart career that lasted from 1956 into 1960. Three of her other titles hit the Top 40: “Little White Lies” went to No. 25 in the spring of 1957; “The Little Blue Man,” a novelty record, went to No. 17 in early 1958; and “Dream” went to No. 19 later that year. Sitting at No. 1 fifty-nine years ago today, in the ninth week of an eventual ten weeks at the top, was “Singing The Blues” by Guy Mitchell.

Sitting at No. 23 on this date in 1961 was Dion’s “Lonely Teenager,” heading down the chart after peaking at No. 12. With the Belmonts and on his own, Dion racked up thirty-nine singles in or near the Hot 100 (well, it was still called the “Top 100” when the first single hit) between 1958 and 1989. And he’s still working: I saw on his Facebook page that his new album, New York Is My Home, will come out next month. (The video for the title track, which he recorded with Paul Simon, is here.) And during this week in 1961, Bert Kaempfert’s “Wonderland By Night” was in the last of its three weeks at No. 1.

When we get to 1965, we find the Shangri-Las at No. 23 with “Give Him A Great Big Kiss.” The follow-up to the No. 1 hit from late 1964, “Leader Of The Pack,” “Great Big Kiss” was on its way to No. 18. The quartet from Queens would end up with thirteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1964 and 1967, three of them in the Top Ten: “Leader Of The Pack,” “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” (No. 5 in 1964), and “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” (No. 6 in 1965). Perched at No. 1 fifty-one years ago today, in the first week of a two-week stay, was Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

Rare Earth was sitting at No. 23 in the Hot 100 from January 23, 1971, with “Born To Wander” making its way to No. 17. The record was the fourth of an eventual dozen in or near the Hot 100 between 1970 and 1978 for the Detroit group. Three of the group’s records made the Top Ten: In 1970, a live version of “Get Ready” went to No. 4 and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” went to No. 7; in 1971, “I Just Want To Celebrate” also peaked at No. 7. The No. 1 record as my senior year of high school hit the halfway point was Dawn’s “Knock Three Times,” in the first of three weeks in the top spot.

It took another eleven years before a Billboard chart came out on January 23, and, as this blog has often noted, my life and music had changed a fair amount by 1982. Parked at No. 23 on this date in that year was Billy Joel’s “She’s Got A Way,” which would go no further up the chart. Plenty of Joel’s work did go higher, of course, as he collected twenty-three Top Twenty singles among his forty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1974 and 1997. The No. 1 record thirty-four years ago today was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” in the last of its ten weeks atop the chart.

We don’t often venture into the late 1980s here, and it was nice to find an old friend sitting at No. 23 on this date in 1988: “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac, was heading up to a peak at No. 14, just one of twenty-eight singles the Mac placed in or near the chart between 1969 and 2003. It was the sixteenth and final Top 20 hit (so far) for the group. The No. 1 record twenty-eight years ago today was Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

So we have six to choose from, five of which I know well. If Betty Johnson’s “I Dreamed” had been a little less frothy, I might have gone that direction. I’ve never like the Shangri-Las all that much, and the Dion single is not among my favorites from him. Nor do I care much for Joel’s “She’s Got A Way.” That leaves Fleetwood Mac and Rare Earth as choices. Well, I like both singles, but the Mac has shown up in this blog about twenty-five times and Rare Earth less than five. (I have to estimate because the archival site, sadly, is still not finished.) So we’ll go with the group less featured.

That means that Rare Earth’s “Born To Wander” – a record I like plenty enough – is today’s Saturday Single:

Garage Paintin’ Music

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I suppose it might have been in July, but I think it was a sunny morning in August 1970 when my dad presented me with a couple of paintbrushes, some turpentine, some rags and a couple of gallons of white paint. The west side of the garage needed painting.

Actually, I imagine the entire garage needed painting and he was presenting me with the west side as a test: The south side of the garage was fronted by rose bushes, the east side held a door and a window and had a begonia bed in front of it, and the north side had the overhead door. If I could handle a blank wall without mishap, I might be trustworthy enough to be let loose on one of the other three sides. I was not, one might guess, particularly adept at handyman-type chores.

Why do I think it was August? Because as well as the paint, the brushes, the turpentine and the rags, I took with me out to the garage that morning my RCA radio, the one that had been my grandfather’s, the one I’d brought up from the basement about a year earlier as I answered the siren call of Top 40 music. I opened the overhead door, ran an extension cord around to the back of the garage and provided myself with some entertainment as I painted.

And one of the records I heard that morning on the Twin Cities’ KDWB was one of my favorites at the time, a record that was sitting at No. 19 forty-two years ago this week: the “Overture From Tommy” by the Assembled Multitude. (It still is a favorite of mine; when it popped up the other week on the mp3 player in the kitchen, I found myself doing one of my unorthodox kitchen dances, using a soup ladle as a mallet for air chimes when the real chimes come in at the forty-nine second mark.)

I recall bobbing my head to the record as I painted that morning, happily refraining from using my paint-laden brush as an air chimes mallet or a conductor’s baton. I was trying to be responsible and careful as I worked. Nevertheless, by the end of the morning, when I had finished the job, there were a few spatters of white paint on the radio’s brown casing, spots that were still there when the radio was removed from the basement (where I placed it after getting an AM/FM radio) in 2004.

Along with checking where “Overture From Tommy” sat forty-two years ago this week, I took a deeper look this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from August 15, 1970. Usually, of course, I’m looking for obscure singles, records that pretty much stayed at the bottom of the chart. But this morning, I thought I’d look for records that were favorites of mine at the time, records I was likely to have heard that morning as I painted the garage.

Heading down only a little to No. 22, we find “Are You Ready” by Pacific Gas & Electric. I’ve mentioned the record numerous times during the past five-plus years, but it’s here again because it mattered to me. I’d be a high school senior in less than a month, and the following summer, after I graduated, I knew my folks would expect me to find some kind of summer job. Yes, I was doing chores during that summer of 1970, and I did spend four days working at the state trap shoot at the nearby gun club, but for the most part, that summer was mine. And “Are You Ready” is a record that over the years has come to be a defining sound of that last free summer.

At the time, being a relatively recent convert to the Church of 45s, I don’t know that I’d ever heard of “Duke of Earl,” Gene Chandler’s classic No. 1 hit from 1962. Early in my senior year, I would come across a slender paperback, The Poetry of Rock, in which Richard Goldstein gathered and commented on rock and pop lyrics he thought significant. Among the lyrics in that book were those to “Duke of Earl.” But it took me years to connect the Gene Chandler mentioned as the singer of “Duke of Earl” in Goldstein’s book to the Gene Chandler whose “Groovy Situation” was sitting at No. 36 as I painted, heading to No. 11 on the pop chart (and No. 8 on the R&B chart, about which I know I was utterly unaware). I had much to learn. But I liked “Groovy Situation,” and that was a start.

Despite being clueless about the origins and background of much of the music I heard coming from that old RCA radio, I was developing – via the commentary of my friends, a little bit of reading in music magazines and the shifting sands of my own tastes – a sense not only of what I liked but of what was, for the lack of a better word at the moment, valuable. I knew the difference between Bob Dylan and Bobby Sherman, and I would spend much of my life digging into the work of the former and forgetting about the latter. Nevertheless, one of the records I was glad to hear coming out of the radio that morning was “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman, which was sitting at No. 38 on its way to No. 5. Why? Well, it was romantic adolescent pop, and I was a romantic adolescent. In memory, it doesn’t hurt that there would actually be a Julie during my senior year, one whose charms I noticed but whose interest in me I absolutely missed.

The concept of groups covering other performers’ earlier hits was also something I had to assimilate. The previous autumn – as I’ve related here before – I quite liked “Birthday,” the No. 26 hit by Underground Sunshine, and when confronted some months later by the Beatles’ version from the White Album, I wondered  (without, thankfully, expressing the thought to my friends) why the Beatles had recorded another group’s song. With some exceptions, my knowledge of pop music as I painted the garage still started with the late summer of 1969. So if Rare Earth’s trippy cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You” came through the speakers that sunny morning, I would have had no awareness that there had been an earlier, earthier version of the song that had gone to No. 8 (No. 1 R&B) in 1966. All I knew was that I liked the record, which was sitting at No. 47 that week, on its way to No. 7, and I certainly didn’t realize that the trippiness I liked would eventually trap Rare Earth’s “(I Know) I’m Losing You” in that specific time.

In the song “Yellow River,” Tony Christie – billed on the label as just Christie – sings about coming home from war:

So long, boy, you can take my place
Got my papers, I got my pay
So pack my bags and I’ll be on my way to Yellow River

Put my gun down, the war is won
Fill my glass high, the time has come
I’m going back to the place that I love: Yellow River

A note at Wikipedia says that Christie wrote the song from the viewpoint of a Confederate soldier returning from the U.S. Civil War, but I have a sense that a lot of folks who listened to Christie’s words in 1970 heard the story of a soldier coming home from Vietnam instead. “Yellow River” was sitting at No. 80 forty-two years ago this week and would eventually climb to No. 23, and as often as I would hear the song that late summer and autumn, I don’t think I ever listened closely enough to hear either the story that Christie intended nor the parallel tale that must have echoed in the record’s chords for thousands of Americans who were not all that much older than I was when I was painting the garage.