Posts Tagged ‘Ronettes’

Chart Digging: Late October 1966

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

My ongoing tussle with a nasty sinus infection – eight weeks and counting with two different antibiotics – reminded me today of a couple of school years when I spent a fair amount of time home ill: During eighth grade, my tonsils kept telling the world that they were no longer fit company for me, burdening me with a series of sore throats that culminated in the sorest throat of all after they were removed. And during my junior year, I spent a fair number of days home complaining of ailments that – looking back honestly – were likely caused by nothing more than a desire to stay home from school.

Whatever the cause, radio was one of the comforts during sick days at home. In the earlier of the two academic years mentioned here, I’d bring our big brown Zenith up from the kitchen and – unhip creature that I was – leave it tuned to WCCO in Minneapolis. I’d listen to the morning shows – Boone & Erickson, Howard Viken – and turn the radio off in annoyance when Arthur Godfrey’s national show came on the air. I’d read in silence for an hour and then turn the radio back on when Godfrey was gone.

By the time of my junior year, there was no need to haul the radio upstairs. I had Grandpa’s old RCA sitting on my nightstand, but the only times it was tuned to WCCO were for Vikings football and North Stars hockey. (Though I followed the Minnesota Twins baseball team, I rarely listened to their games on the radio.) The rest of the time, the RCA was tuned to Top 40: KDWB in the Twin Cities during the day and either WJON right across the railroad tracks or WLS in Chicago during the evening.

I know pretty well what I would have heard had I spent a day home in late October 1969, my junior year. But I wondered what would have been on the menu had my increasingly unreliable tonsils acted up during the last week of October 1966. So I went to look.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the last week of October 1966:

“96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Hooray for Hazel” by Tommy Roe
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow” by the Rolling Stones
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals

Even though I didn’t truly listen to pop music at the time, I remember all of these from those days, which is a sad thing in the cases of “Dandy” and “Hooray for Hazel,” two of my least-favorite songs from the time. All of the rest are pretty good, with a few deserving special mention: “96 Tears” was inescapable and a great record, as were the Four Tops’ record and “Walk Away Renee.” The Rolling Stones record was likely the loudest thing that group ever produced, as I was reminded a few years ago when I ripped my near-mint 45 to an mp3.

And, as always, there were some gems and some interesting records once one went beyond the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s “Mas Que Nada” was sitting at No. 47, up two spots from a week earlier. The group would eventually have three Top 40 hits in 1968, with two them – “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” – making the Top Ten, and Mendes would reach the Top 40 in 1983 and 1984 under his own name. “Mas Que Nada” would spend another week at No. 47, then a week at No. 48 before falling out of the Hot 100.

 

The Sandpipers had reached the Top Ten earlier in the year with “Guantanamera,” which had peaked at No. 9, and in October, they reached the Top 40 again with another Latin-tinged record, a cover of the garage rock warhorse “Louie Louie” translated into Spanish. At first listen a tribute to cognitive dissonance, the record was at No. 59 during the last week of October and would peak at No. 30 during the last week of November.

A few slots lower, we find the Olympics, an R&B group from Compton, California, which reached the Top Ten in 1958 with “Western Movies” and the Top 40 in 1963 with “The Bounce.” (Recording as the Marathons in 1961, the same performers charted at No. 20 with “Peanut Butter” and its immortal command: “Scarf now!”) In October 1966, the group was at No. 63 with “Baby, Do The Philly Dog,” a lively workout that I’ve seen called a Northern Soul classic. “Baby, Do The Philly Dog” fell to No. 70 the next week and then dropped out of sight.

The Arbors were a vocal quartet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who would reach the Top 40 in 1969, when their cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter” would go to No. 20. In late October 1966, the group’s second single (the first went nowhere, says Wikipedia) was in the lower portions of the Hot 100 and moving up slowly. “A Symphony For Susan” would eventually peak at No. 51 during the last week of November and the first week of December, but during the last week of October, the record – a traditional vocal workout – was sitting at No. 80.

By the time October 1966 rolled around, the Ronettes, backed by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, had registered seven hits in the Hot 100, with five of them reaching the Top 40 in 1963 and 1964. From what I can tell – and according to Wikipedia – the last week of October 1966 marked the last appearance of the Ronettes in the Billboard Hot 100: “I Can Hear Music” was at No. 100 and would be there for exactly one week. (It had been in the Bubbling Under section at No. 120 a week earlier; it would fall back to Bubbling Under at No. 113 during the first week of November and then disappear from the chart entirely.)

Finally, sitting in the Bubbling Under section, we find the original version of “Wedding Bell Blues,” which would be a No. 1 single for the 5th Dimension in 1969. Songwriter Laura Nyro’s version, however, would not make the Hot 100. In the last week of October 1966, Nyro’s version of “Wedding Bell Blues” was at No. 127 and in its second week of Bubbling Under. The record would rise to No. 107, where it would spend the last two weeks of November before falling off the chart entirely.

Maybe tomorrow, we’ll take apart a cover version and see how it ticks. If not, we’ll be here Saturday.

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.)