So, St. Patrick’s Day. Well, I’m not Irish. But then, neither are most of the folks who’ve made the day into a drunken carnival in the past forty or so years. I wrote about that – call it the unIrishing of St. Patrick’s Day, if you will – maybe three years ago, though, in a post that I imagine will soon find its way to the archives site, so we’ll let that go this year.
Instead, we’ll use the date as a source for a number, as we often do here, and then look at a few Billboard charts from the years 1955-1980 and see what might pop up as a good tune for a mid-March Saturday. We’ll look at the No. 17 songs and wend our ways back five years at a time.
The No. 17 record as St. Patrick’s Day dawned in 1980 was Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.” I don’t think I need to tell you too much about the artist. After all, he only dropped forty-eight records in the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty-eight of those reaching the Top Ten and thirteen of those hitting Number One. Add in the numbers from the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons – thirty-one in the Hot 100, eleven in the Top Ten and four No. 1 hits – and the totals become surreal. Better yet, “Off the Wall” – now overshadowed by the avalanche of treasures found on 1982’s Thriller – is a sweet piece of funky late Seventies R&B that peaked at No. 10.*
We stay with R&B as we head back five years to 1975: No. 17 on St. Patrick’s Day was the exuberant “Once You Get Started” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Another slice of brilliant Seventies funky stuff, the record peaked at No. 10, a little bit of a come-down from the previous summer’s No. 3 hit, “Tell Me Something Good.” The group hung in there until the mid-1980s, eventually scoring seventeen records in or near the Hot 100, with “Sweet Thing” going to No. 5 in 1976 and providing Rufus with its third Top Ten hit.
The theme of exuberance continues as we drop back another five years and land on “Celebrate” by Three Dog Night. Kicking into gear after a slightly laid-back introduction, the record was sitting at No. 17 during the third week of March in 1970, heading to No. 15. Another chart power, Three Dog Night racked up twenty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1975, with eleven of those reaching the Top Ten and three going to No. 1. “Celebrate” might not have been TDN’s best, but it was pretty damn good.
The contrast can hardly be greater. Landing in 1965, we find a piece of traditional pop that’s not only out of step with the three records we’ve touched on this morning but that was also out of step with the chart during its own time. Vic Dana’s “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” harked back to the pop standards of the 1950s but somehow found itself sitting at No. 17 in mid-March, just under the Impression’s “People Get Ready” and just above the countryish folk-rock of Bobby Goldsboro’s “Little Things” on a chart topped by the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week.” An admittedly pretty song with a sweet (if traditional) arrangement, “Red Roses” would peak at No. 10, the only Top Ten hit for Dana among sixteen records he placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1970.
And a stop in 1960 finds us even more far afield from the pop, rock and R&B that make up much of our playlist here. Sitting at No. 17 on St. Patrick’s Day fifty-two years ago was former Disney Mousketeer Annette Funicello – billed as simply Annette – with “O Dio Mio.” Seventeen at the time of the record’s release, Annette lays her adolescent yearnings – “How much I need him! How much I long for his love!” – on a bed of strings and vocal choruses. The record went to No. 10, Annette’s second and last Top Ten hit among thirteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 1963.
As we end our morning with a stop in 1955, the thought comes to mind that, as disappointing as the 1960 entry was, at least Annette sang it competently. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Jaye P. Morgan’s traditional pop recording of “That’s All I Want From You.” Singing in front of the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra (which provides an arrangement that’s more interesting than many from that genre and era), Morgan – whom I remember more as a celebrity guest on 1970s game shows than as a singer – sounds for most of the record as if she’s not very interested in the proceedings. The record went to No. 3, though, the first of twenty-two that Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1955 and 1971. (According to Wikipedia, Morgan had a couple of Top Twenty hits in 1953, the year before Whitburn’s listings kick in.) The best-performing of her records after “That’s All I Want From You” was “The Longest Walk,” which went to No. 6 in 1955. I’m not inclined to seek it out.
So, with six records to choose from – three traditional pop records, one up-tempo pop-rock record and two pieces of funky R&B – which direction do we go? The records by Annette and Morgan don’t thrill me (I think that was already apparent), and I featured Dana’s sweet record here on a long-ago Vinyl Record Day. And as good as the Michael Jackson and Three Dog Night singles are, it comes to mind that I don’t often find a reason to share anything from Rufus and Chaka Khan.
So that’s why – even though the video seems to be a rip of the album track from Rufusized instead of the shorter single edit – “Once You Get Started” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan is today’s Saturday Single.
*I’m not entirely sure when Michael Jackson’s participation with the Jackson 5 – later the Jacksons – came to a practical end. Neither Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles nor two editions of the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll are entirely clear. If I had to put a date on it, I’d say 1989, and that’s at best an educated guess. As to the chart impact, only one of the charting records referenced above seem to have come along after that time: “Nothin (That Compares 2 U)” went to No. 77 during the late spring and summer of 1989.