Posts Tagged ‘Sam & Dave’

A Stage Waiting For Actors

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

With the holiday weekend over, we’re on the cusp of summer. Here at the top of the driveway on the East Side, we look forward to green shoots and then blossoms in the gardens, late afternoons in the lawn chairs shaded by the oaks, curling smoke rising from the grill along with the aroma of sizzling burgers and steaks, and so much more. For the most part, we know what to expect.

That wasn’t the case with the summers of my youth, or so it always seemed as they began. The rift in time at ending of the school year and the beginning of vacation carried the promise of  . . . well, of something I’m not sure I can define. It always seemed as if each new summer was going to be full of adventure, crammed with things my friends and I had never before done and sights we’d never before seen (as well as with things we’d done before and would do again).

There were some things we knew we would do, of course, and those changed over the years. Early on, we looked forward to the city’s recreation programs for kids based at Lincoln School, the annual visit of the Shrine Circus and learning to ride a two-wheel bicycle. In later years, we’d plan on riding the city bus system to the new Crossroads mall on the distant west end of town, working at the trap shoot for twelve bucks a day and learning to drive. Beyond those things, all of them things we could predict, we hoped for something more, though what that was we could not say (and I still cannot say today). Sometimes, come the end of August, we felt let down by how the season had spooled out, realizing only in later years how much we’d grown during each of those summers.

But as May turned to June, all of that growth was still ahead of us and those reflections on summers gone still lay years in the future. The stage of summer was in front of us, and all it needed was actors ready to learn their parts. What music would play as we entered? Well, it’s May 29th, so here’s a look at some of the records that were at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 as summer called us on stage.

As the end of May came by during 1960, the Four Preps held down No. 29 with their bouncy “Got A Girl” telling the tale of a guy whose girl has other guys on her mind:

There was Fabian, Avalon, Ricky Nelson too,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Bobby Rydell and I know darned well
Presley’s in there too.

The record had peaked a week earlier at No. 24, the tenth of an eventual fifteen records the Preps would place in or near the Hot 100 from 1956 to 1964. (Their final hit, which went to No. 85, came in early 1964 with “A Letter To The Beatles,” which, paralleling “Got A Girl,” disses the Fab Four because one of the Preps’ girlfriends had succumbed to Beatlemania.)

Three years later, summer vacation began with an underrated record from Dion occupying spot No. 29 on the chart. “This Little Girl” features a swinging lead vocal – with some cool (for the time) “Sha-da-da” background vocals – as Dion tells us his plans for his girl:

Oh, this little girl tries to make every guy her slave, oh yeah,
But this little man is gonna take her by the hand,
And I’m gonna show her the way to behave.

The record had spent two weeks at No. 21 and was on its way back down the chart, just one of thirty-nine records Dion had in or near the chart between 1958 and 1989.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t recall either of those two tunes. But once we get to 1966, we enter familiar territory: During the last days of May in that year, the No. 29 spot in the Hot 100 belonged to Sam & Dave, as “Hold On! I’m A Comin’” was on its way to No. 2. The record was the first Top 40 hit for Sam & Dave. (Earlier in the year, the duo’s first chart hit, “You Don’t Know Like I Know” had stalled at No. 90.) They would end up with sixteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1966 and 1971.

And as we look at No. 29 in the last week of May 1969, we go into the unknown again, as I come across a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before: “Heather Honey” by Tommy Roe. I do recall thinking about that time on the basis of “Dizzy,” “Hooray for Hazel” and “Sweet Pea” – all Top Ten hits, with “Dizzy” spending four weeks at No. 1 – that Roe was kind of a lightweight. (One of my first critical judgments in rock and pop, I’d imagine, and one that remains in place.) Lightweight or not – and I should probably put an exception on Roe’s first hit, “Sheila,” which is a pretty good record in the vein of Buddy Holly – Roe put twenty-seven records onto the chart between 1962 and 1973. “Heather Honey,” a decent enough single if still a little bit feathery, would go no higher.

Millie Jackson might be best known for what All-Music Guide calls her “trademark rap style of racy, raunchy language” that arose in the mid-1970s. I admit I’ve shied away from her music over the years because of that reputation (though I’ve likely heard worse elsewhere). So the only thing I know about “Ask Me What You Want” is that it was sitting at No. 29 as May 1972 came to a close. Turns out that it’s a decent slice of early Seventies R&B. And that tells me that I should probably set aside my reservations and give a listen to at least some of Jackson’s catalog. “Ask Me What You Want” peaked at No. 27, the second of eleven records Jackson would put in or near the Hot 100 between 1971 and 1978.

Three years later, the No. 29 record as May came to a close was a funky piece of brilliance from the Temptations, as “Shakey Ground” was on its way to No. 26. (The link is to a video with what I believe is the album track rather than the single.) Featuring lead guitar by Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel – one of the song’s co-writers – “Shakey Ground” was also a No. 1 hit on the R&B chart, and it was one of an amazing sixty records the Temptations placed in or near the Hot 100 from 1962 to 1998. (Covers of “Shakey Ground” abound, of course, including Phoebe Snow’s No. 70 cover from 1977 and my favorite – spelled “Shaky Ground” – from Delbert McClinton on his 1980 album, The Jealous Kind.)

What Was At No. 41?

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

In the absence of anything else within my expertise to write about today, and in the interest of getting to chores less interesting but more vital than this blog, I thought I’d take today’s date – 4/19 – and use that to find a few records to write about. We’ll change that date to No. 41 and go find out what tunes lay just outside the Billboard Top 40 on a few years in and around our sweet spot. We’ll start with 1962.

In the third week of April 1962, Etta James and her cheeky “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” held down the No. 41 spot on the pop chart. With its pop-styled arrangement, its gospel chorus background and James’ bluesy vocals, the record is a little bit of a mish-mash. But James is in fine voice, making it worth a listener’s time. The record peaked at No. 37 on the pop chart and No. 4 on the R&B chart.

Three years later, a sweet slice of Chess R&B was in spot No. 41, as Billy Stewart’s “I Do Love You” was heading up the chart to No. 26 on the pop chart and No. 6 on the R&B chart. Stewart, who passed on early at the age of thirty-two, had only one other record go higher in the pop chart: “Sitting In The Park” went to No. 24 (No. 4 R&B) later in 1965. In 1969, Chess released “I Do Love You” in 1969, but it went only to No. 94 the second time around. (Somehow, as Yah Shure points out below, I managed as I looked over Billy Stewart’s entry in Top Pop Singles to read right past his biggest hit of all, the No. 10 “Summertime” from 1966. Thanks for the catch, Yah Shure!)

Memphis R&B was sitting in spot No. 41 three years later, as Sam & Dave’s classic “Thank You” was just under the Top 40 during the third week in April 1968. The record had peaked earlier at No. 9, giving the duo of Sam Moore and Dave Prater their second Top Ten hit; “Soul Man” had gone to No. 2 during the autumn of 1967. On the R&B chart, “Thank You” went to No. 4 and was the last of seven Top Ten hits for Sam & Dave on the R&B chart.

Okay. I’m going to let Wikipedia describe the No. 41 record as of April 19, 1971: “‘The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley’ is a 1971 spoken word recording with vocals by Terry Nelson and music by pick-up group C-Company . . .  The song is set to the tune of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ It offers a heroic description of Lieutenant William Calley, who in March 1971 was convicted of murdering Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre of March 16, 1968.” The record, which turns my stomach in its approval of Calley and his actions, went to No. 37 on the pop charts and, says Wikipedia, No. 49 on the country chart. (The story of the My Lai Massacre is here.)

When we get to 1974, it’s time for some Philadelphia-style soul with the Spinners, whose “Mighty Love, Pt. 1” was holding down the No. 41 spot as the calendar moved toward the final third of April. The record had earlier peaked at No. 20, the seventh of an eventual seventeen Top 40 hits for the Spinners. (They had thirty-five records in or near the Hot 100.) “Mighty Love, Pt. 1” spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart; the Spinners wound up with thirty-four records in the R&B Top 40, with six of those going to No. 1.

And then, we find the Starz rocking it with “Cherry Baby” at No. 41 during April 1977. The band, formed in New York, had eight singles in or near the Hot 100 between 1975 – when the band was called the Fallen Angels – and 1979, but the very catchy “Cherry Baby” was the only record by the band to ever climb into the Top 40, where it peaked at No. 33.

A Legend Gone
I should note today the passing of Dick Clark, the man who for years brought rock ’n’ roll into our living rooms. Other bloggers will no doubt pay tribute to the man better than I can: I rarely watched American Bandstand or any of the other shows with which he was connected, so I have no memories to tap. I have only respect, so I will let others tell the tales and simply provide a closing video as a farewell to the man. It’s a clip from Bandstand with Link Wray performing “Rawhide,” likely from early 1959, when “Rawhide” was in the charts.