Posts Tagged ‘Righteous Brothers’

What Was At No. 71?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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.)

Chart Digging, September 21, 1974

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I was going to write something this morning about chemistry classes, as I took the subject twice during my college days, but I’m not sure how much there is to write about. I failed basic chemistry during my disastrous – 1.87 GPA – first quarter on campus in 1971 because I never really understood what we were supposed to do. The concept of conducting chemical experiments whose outcomes we already knew in order to write accounts of those same experiments, well, that escaped me entirely. So I quit going to class and, unsurprisingly, failed the course.

I tried again in the fall of 1974, taking a section of the class that met at 4 p.m., which was not a good idea. By that time of the day, my attention span was minimal, and three years of getting by in general education classes had increased neither my interest nor my facility in writing lab reports. A small voice in my head tells me that I was bored with college, but that’s not entirely so: I enjoyed my other three classes that quarter – announcing, broadcast news writing and classical music history, all offered during morning hours – so it must have been chemistry or afternoon or a combination thereof.

Whatever the reason, I rarely attended the class and was certainly heading for another failed course. But I ended up missing a chunk of the quarter after an auto accident and dropped the course. (I took incompletes in the other three courses and ended up with two As and a B.)

So how was I spending those afternoon hours during the fall of 1974, when I should have been playing with chemicals and making notes? Most likely I was sitting at The Table in the student union, sharing tall tales and jokes, sipping coffee and smoking Marlboro Lights. And I was also plugging quarters into the jukebox not far from where I sat. As a result, I recall hearing most of the Billboard Top Ten from September 21, 1974, thirty-eight years ago tomorrow:

“Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” by Barry White
“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim
“I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John
“Nothing From Nothing” by Billy Preston
“I Shot The Sheriff” by Eric Clapton
“Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick & The Spinners
“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka (with Odia Coates)
“Clap For The Wolfman” by the Guess Who
“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” by Stevie Wonder
“Hang On In There Baby” by Johnny Bristol

I recall hearing nine of those tunes that autumn. The only one I seem to have missed is the Bristol, and having sought it out this morning, I wish I’d heard it long ago. On the other hand, I could have lived quite nicely without ever having heard the Anka record, and I never cared that much for “Clap For The Wolfman.” Of the others, there are some good records with two standouts: I still groove gently to the Warwick/Spinners record. And then there’s “I Honestly Love You,” which I consider the one great record in Newton-John’s career. Is it sentimental? Yes. Is it overwrought? Maybe. Is it a record that reflected my life at least once during the years before I got where I am now? Undeniably.

What, though, was lying in the records lower on the chart in Billboard that week?

Exactly midway down the chart was a record that had poked its head into the lower reaches of the Top 40 three weeks earlier, spending two weeks at No. 37. The Rubettes were a pop rock sextet from London who put nine singles into the U.K. Top 40 between 1974 and 1977. Their “Sugar Baby Love,” a marvelous pop-rock confection that I don’t ever recall hearing (and that I might have thoroughly disdained at the time), went to No. 1 in the U.K. and was sitting at No. 50 thirty-eight years ago this week:

Earlier in 1974, the Righteous Brothers “Rock and Roll Heaven” (a record that once resulted in my having an exchange of emails with co-writer Alan O’Day) had gone to No. 3. In September, “Give It To The People” – the title track of the Brothers’ new album – was climbing the charts, having reached No. 52 by the third week of the month on its way to No. 20. The duo pulled one more hit single in late 1974 from the album – “Dream On,” which went to No. 32 – and then were gone from the charts for almost sixteen years. In 1990, a reissue of their 1965 hit “Unchained Melody” went to No. 13 as a result of its use in the film Ghost, and a newly recorded version of “Unchained Melody” went to No. 19.*

A research paper or perhaps a dissertation might lie in the future of anyone who wants to dig into the origins of the phrase “party hearty” (often misstated as “party hardy”). Whitburn’s Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits lists “Party Hearty,” a great instrumental by sax player Oliver Sain, as going to No. 16 in 1976. (In the pop chart, the record bubbled under at No. 103 as the B-Side of a two-sided single.) I also have found references to the group Atlantic Starr having used the phrase “party hearty” although I cannot figure out this morning on which record that happened. Why does it matter? Because when I listened to “Do It, Fluid” by the Blackbyrds, I was struck by the use of “party hearty” in the opening verse of the lyric, and that puts the phrase securely in the late summer of 1974. Are there earlier uses of the phrase? Quite possibly, and I would not be at all surprised to find that some student of pop culture has already researched the origins of the phrase. In any case, “Do It, Fluid” was sitting at No. 76 during the third week of September thirty-eight years ago, on its way to No. 69 (No. 23, R&B). In February of 1975, the Blackbyrds would hit the Top Ten on both charts when “Walking In Rhythm” went to No. 6 on the pop chart and No. 4 on the R&B chart.

I don’t remember the Hudson Brothers, nor do I know anything about them beyond what Whitburn tells me: They were a pop vocal trio from Portland, Oregon, and they hosted their own television variety show during the summer of 1974. They also hosted a kids’ television show. Oh, and member Bill Hudson was married to Goldie Hawn; their daughter is actress Kate Hudson. The Hudson Brothers had six records in or near the Hot 100 between 1972 and 1976. The best performing of those – “So You Are A Star” – was sitting at No. 86 during this week in 1974, on its way to No. 21. As far as I know, I’d never heard the record until this week, and my first thought – reinforced by my second, third and fourth thoughts – was that it’s a record that owes an amazingly large debt to the Beatles around the time of Magical Mystery Tour. (If “So You Are A Star” hadn’t predated the 1978 spoof The Rutles by four years, I’d have said that’s where the Hudson Brothers’ debt lies. Maybe Eric Idle was listening.)

During mid-July, when I dug into a Billboard Hot 100 from 1971, I mentioned the group the New Birth: “Sorting out the history of the Nite-Liters, a group started in Louisville, Kentucky, by Harvey Fuqua and Tony Churchill, is a little confusing. Joel Whitburn says in Top Pop Singles that the project evolved to include seventeen people in three groups: the vocal groups Love, Peace & Happiness and the New Birth as well as the band still called the Nite-Liters. All of that was yet to come during mid-July 1971, when the Nite-Liters’ ‘K-Jee’ was sitting at No. 92.” Much of that “yet to come” had come to pass by September of 1974 when “I Wash My Hands Of The Whole Damn Deal (Part 1)” was bubbling under at No. 104. The single, the eighth to reach the Hot 100 for the combination of the Nite-Liters and the New Birth, would go to No. 88.

Mention Dobie Gray and the mind hears the smooth R&B of “The In Crowd” from 1965 or “Drift Away” from 1973. Or maybe the mind recalls the sweet and sad “Loving Arms,” also from 1973. But as summer was turning to autumn in 1974, Gray’s “Watch Out For Lucy” showed a different side of the performer as it bubbled under at No. 107. I’m not sure that Gray’s effort to rip it up worked all that well. Radio program directors evidently thought the same: The record was gone from the chart a week later.

*Those final entries in the Righteous Brothers’ discography mean that “Unchained Melody” has reached the Billboard Hot 100 ten times, and I think that’s more than any other song. (Can someone confirm or deny that? Are you out there, Yah Shure?) Along with the three chart entries by the Righteous Brothers, Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Hits lists charting versions by Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton, June Valli (all 1955), Vito & The Salutations (1963), the Sweet Inspirations (1968), and Heart (1981). Gerry Granahan, the founder of Caprice Records, had a version of the song bubble under the Hot 100 (1961), and Elvis Presley and LeAnn Rimes (1977 and 1996, respectively) are credited with “classic” versions of the song that did not chart. In addition, the Presley and Rimes versions, along with a cover by Ronnie McDowell (1991), reached the country Top 40, and the versions by Hamilton, Hibbler and the Righteous Brothers – the original 1965 single – reached the R&B Top 40. I’d probably also find a few entries in the Adult Contemporary listings, but that volume is still on my wish list.)

Chart Digging: November 23, 1974

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I don’t remember much about November 1974. But as I recovered from a traffic accident, I did listen to a lot of music.

Reading was difficult as I dealt with the impact of a concussion. (The memory of the fog in which I found myself that autumn makes the current discussion of concussions in athletics frighteningly relevant; as much as I love watching the game, if I had a grandson, I would exert all of my persuasive powers to keep him from playing even one game of football at any age level.) So, as I had many times before, I leaned on music to get me through, spending large portions of my days in the basement rec room, where the albums on my turntable included records by the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, the various combinations of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and a smattering of other artists and groups. During other parts of the day and in the evenings, I carefully made my way upstairs and listened to the radio in my room, sometimes tuning in the campus radio station, sometimes an album rock station I remember hearing without recalling its call letters, and quite often, the Top 40 offered by KDWB in the Twin Cities or in the evenings by WJON just across the tracks.

So what did I hear? The Top Ten on November 23, 1974 – thirty-six years ago today – was:

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express
“My Melody of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“Tin Man” by America
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Back Home Again” by John Denver
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin

If ever there was a Top Ten that deserved to be called a mixed bag, this one is it. I can do without the John Denver and “Kung Fu Fighting,” and for some reason, my tolerance over the years has been low for “Cat’s In The Cradle.” I still enjoy the novelty of a Top Ten record sung partly in Polish – “My Melody of Love” – although the frequency of its airplay at the time became wearisome. Otherwise, we’ve got a good mix of some rockabilly, some folk-rock, some post-era Brill Building pop, some funk and some R&B. And I’ve proclaimed in this space not all that long ago my deep affection for the Three Degrees’ record.

Heading a little further into the Top 40, there’s a gem sitting at No. 24, a record I do not at all recall hearing that autumn. Prelude was a folk-rock trio from England made up of the husband-and-wife team of Irene and Brian Hume along with Ian Vardy. During the week in question, their cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” was at No. 24; it would peak the next week at No. 22. The group would reach the Billboard Hot 100 two in 1976 with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” which would go to No. 63. Of the two, I prefer the 1974 record, which carries in its grooves an anticipation of the version of “After the Gold Rush” recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris on their 1998 album Trio II.

 

At No. 54, we find the last Top 40 hit for the Righteous Brothers that wasn’t titled “Unchained Melody.” “Dream On” was on its way up the charts during this week in 1974. The single – on which Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield did a decent enough job – was pulled from their album Give It To The People and peaked at No. 32. After that, the only RB hit singles were a rerelease of their 1965 version of “Unchained Melody,” which went to No. 13 in the autumn of 1990, and a new recording of the same song, which went to No. 19 during that same season.

In 1975, Sammy Johns had his only Top 40 hit with the delightful and very much of its time “Chevy Van,” which went to No. 5. The previous year, he’d come relatively close with “Early Morning Love.” It’s not quite as good a single as “Chevy Van,” but it’s pretty good. Thirty-six years ago today, “Early Morning Love” was at its peak of No. 68. (In 1975, “Early Morning Love” would get to No. 75 on the country chart, and Johns’ “Rag Doll” would reach No. 52 in the Hot 100.)

By the autumn of 1974, the Main Ingredient had scored three Top 40 hits: “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” (No. 10, 1974) and “Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” (No. 35, 1974) had followed the brilliant “Everybody Plays The Fool,” which went to No. 3 in 1972. The group had also reached the Hot 100 and the R&B chart several times, and would continue to do so into 1976. In the autumn of 1974, the group reached No. 75 (and No. 48 on the R&B chart) with “California My Way,” a decent enough bit of light R&B. In the chart released thirty-six years ago today, the single was just short of its peak, sitting at No. 76.

As 1974 began to head toward 1975, disco was beginning to pop up more and more in the charts. I don’t know exactly when to date the beginning of the disco era, but if we weren’t quite there yet in November 1974, we were very close. And one of the most fun – and frankly, a little bit screwball – records of the beginning of that era was “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. Sitting at No. 90 on November 23, in its first week in the Hot 100, “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” would enter the Top 40 during the last week of the year and peak in early 1975 at No. 10. (Later in 1975, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes would reach No. 23 with “I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo [Doo Dat Dance], Part 1.”)

All-Music Guide says of Dick Feller, “Best-known for a brief run of country novelty hits in the mid-’70s, Dick Feller was also a songwriter responsible for several hits by other artists, most notably his oftentime writing partner, Jerry Reed.” And in fact, it was Jerry Reed I thought of this morning when I heard Feller’s 1974 recording, “The Credit Card Song” for the first time. An almost spoken-word tale of Feller’s introduction to computerized record-keeping and what we now call customer service, the record was at No. 105 in the Bubbling Under section of the chart thirty-six years ago today. It dropped one spot in the next week, and then, as far as I can see, fell off the chart for a week before coming back and bubbling under for another four weeks, never going higher than No. 105. On the country chart, however, “The Credit Card Song” went to No. 10.