Posts Tagged ‘Vogues’

Some No. 10s From November 20

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

“Hmm,” I thought this morning as I scanned the Billboard Top Ten from November 20, 1965, and my eye fell on the listing for “You’re the One” by the Vogues. “I’m not sure I know that one.”

And I wandered off to YouTube, where I learned that I did, of course, know “You’re the One,” which went to No. 4. I had just never connected it with the Vogues. And that got me to wondering for a moment about how many records from the years, say, 1960 to 1980 that I know but that I’m not aware I know. It’s a thought that has no answer, unless I want to go line-by-line through the Hot 100 charts and run to YouTube every time a title seems unfamiliar to me.

That might be interesting for a while, but I imagine the task would eventually lapse into drudgery, and I have better ways to spend my time. This morning, for example, I’m going to invest a little bit of time in looking at the Billboard Hot 100 charts issued over the years on November 20. And given that I noticed “You’re the One” sitting at No. 10 in that 1965 chart, I thought I’d look at the records that were at No. 10 as well as noting which two records topped the separate charts.

My collection of Billboard charts starts in December 1954 and ends during the summer of 2004, a nearly fifty-year span. During that time, there were seven charts released on November 20; we’ll look at five of them and leave the charts from the 1990s to themselves.

The first chart released on November 20 came in 1961, when Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” was No. 1 and Dion’s ‘Runaround Sue” was sitting at No. 2 (after peaking at No. 1). The No. 10 single that week was “The Fly” by Chubby Checker. Another dance record in the spirit of Checker’s earlier singles, “The Twist,” “The Hucklebuck” and “Pony Time,” “The Fly” had peaked a week earlier at No. 7. I’ve known the top two records for years, of course, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard “The Fly” until this morning.

Four years later, in the Hot 100 for November 20, 1965, the top two singles are again familiar records: Sitting at No. 1 was “I Hear A Symphony” by the Supremes while Len Barry’s “1-2-3” was at its peak position of No. 2. This was, as I noted above, the chart in which I came across “You’re the One.” The video I found at YouTube is notable for the inclusion every few seconds of young ladies’ graduation pictures from the mid-1960s. I didn’t know those girls, but I knew girls with clothing and hair styles just like theirs.

Unsurprisingly, as I look at the Hot 100 from November 20, 1971, I see a lot of familiar titles. Topping the chart during that week was Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” and sitting just behind it was Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” which had been No. 1 the week before. I knew both of those, loving Hayes’ single and not totally disliking Cher’s. I was, however, pretty dismissive of the single sitting at No. 10 that week: “Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds. My scorn was likely a product of my slow shift away from Top 40 toward album rock, which accelerated that autumn. Now, listening forty years later without that purity/snobbery filter in place, “Yo-Yo” – which had already peaked at No. 3 by November 20 – is a pretty good single.

Another five years went by before a Hot 100 came out on November 20, and the top two records on that date in 1976 were “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart at No. 1 and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot at No. 2. The Stewart single has made me cringe since the first time I heard it, and the Lightfoot single, which went no higher, still has my admiration. At No. 10 that week was “Do You Feel Like We Do,” the third hit – if I read my Joel Whitburn books accurately – from the massively popular Frampton Comes Alive album that spent ten weeks at No. 1. The label for the 45 of “Do You Feel Like We Do” says the record clocks in at 7:19 (which may or may not be accurate). The link here is to the full track, which runs more than fourteen minutes.

By the time we hit our fifth and last November 20 chart, we’re into 1982 and into a time when I wasn’t hearing everything that hit the charts. I knew the top two records of the week: “Up Where We Belong,” the duet between Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, was at No. 1, and Lionel Richie’s “Truly,” which would go to No. 1, was sitting at No. 2. Those two were inescapable that late autumn, but I’m not sure I’ve ever before heard the record that was at its peak position of No. 10: “Muscles” by Diana Ross. Listening this morning, I don’t know that I really missed anything.

Gimme Some Saxophone!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

As readers might know, I love me some saxophone, and I’ve been having a fine time lately with a document I found quite by accident in the hinterlands of the ’Net.

Not quite a month ago, as I wandered through music blogs and forums, I chanced across a Word file: The History of Top 40 Saxophone Solos, 1955-2005. The seventy-six page document seems to be a preview of a two-CD set available by mail order, a set that includes more text and seventeen tracks of music, if I read correctly. I may get in touch with the authors, John Laughter and Steve D. Marshall, and find out about the CD set. But in the meantime, I’m having a fine time digging into the document

The Word file appears to list every American and British Top 40 hit during that fifty-year span that had a saxophone solo or significant background saxophone part and then lists the individual player or players who crafted those solos or those parts. Plenty of spots in the list of soloists are blank – the writers say research continues – but many of them are filled. And many of those that are filled, gratifyingly, are from the earlier years, when individual credits on records were few.

The familiar names pop up frequently: King Curtis, Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen, Sam Taylor, Plas Johnson, Steve Douglas, Junior Walker, Jim Horn and on and on down to Clarence Clemons, Tom Scott and David Sanborn. The number of records listed gets a quite a bit more slender from the mid-1990s onward, but there’s still a lot to dig into.

And just as interesting are the occasional notes about the research, either notes by the author or else bits of information they’ve received from musicians or producers about who actually played saxophone during various sessions, some of them long ago.

For instance, there’s a note regarding “China In Your Hand,” a 1987 No. 1 hit in the U.K. for T’Pau (it did not chart at all in the U.S.). The note says: “Per [T’Pau’s lead singer] Carol Decker, Gary Barnacle played on the hit single. The album sax player’s name is unknown but he was a session player in the states.”

Now, that’s not all that long ago as those things are measured, but it caught my eye because I doubt I’d ever heard the tune until this morning, and I liked it – and its saxophone solo – a fair amount.

That’s one of six listings for Barnacle in the document, and no, I don’t know if that’s Barnacle – a member of both Visage and Jamiroquai – hefting the saxophone in the video or an actor faking it.

I’ll no doubt be pulling bits and pieces of saxophone lore from the document’s pages for months, and I’m certain some of those bits and pieces will show up here. In the meantime, I thought I’d offer a couple of other things I found. I mentioned Plas Johnson above; he’s one of the most frequently cited saxophone players in the document, from 1955’s “The Great Pretender” by the Platters to the Vogues’ 1968 No. 7 hit “My Special Angel.”

(Okay, so we know that Johnson did the saxophone fills; what I want to know is who played drums? I have an idea who it was, but I’m not certain.)

And to close things this morning, I checked the mentions of Raphael Ravenscroft, the sax player who crafted the great introductory riff for Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” He’s listed twice more, for Kim Carnes’ “More Love” in 1980 and for the track “The Border” in 1983, the last Top 40 hit for America. Here’s the latter of those two.

Getting Used To Being 57

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been fifty-seven for a little more than a week now, which is long enough to get used to it. Just like it used to take a week or so to remember to write the correct year on a check every January, it now takes about a week for me to internalize my new age every September. (It never used to; back when age and birthdays were of huge importance, my age was always at the forefront of my mind.) Of course, the simile tends to underline the fact that – year by year – I’m out-growing many of the little things that used to be day-to-day realities: paper checks are now an item almost ready to be relegated to the same place where one finds dial phones, home-delivered milk and so much more.

But that’s okay. It’s better to be fifty-seven and know the world has changed immensely than it would have been to not get to fifty-seven at all. And in the absence of anything more compelling today, I thought I’d take a look at a few of the records that have been at No. 57 at mid-September, the time when these days I begin remember to include the additional year when someone asks my age.

We’ll start with 1956 – as the Billboard data I have seems to indicate that as the first year there was a No. 57 slot for a record – and then hit every six years from there.

On this date in 1956, the No. 57 record was “Mama, Teach Me To Dance” by Eydie Gorme. The record was Gorme’s second Top 40 hit, having peaked at No. 34 earlier in the month. She’d have five more Top 40 hits, the last two with husband Steve Lawrence. The duo, it seems to me, were regulars on many talk shows throughout the 1960s.

In 1962, one of the great Fifties rockers had a single at No. 57: Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover” was heading up the chart toward its peak of No. 48 (No. 21 on the R&B chart). The video I’ve linked to is from a television performance (evidently in New York, according to other versions I’ve seen of the clip), and it kicks, Bo Diddley beat and all.

On this date in 1968, the Vogues’ “My Special Angel” was sitting at No. 57. A week later, the record would enter the Top 40 en route to No. 7. The record – which would spend two weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart – would be the sixth of the group’s eight eventual Top 40 hits.

In 1974, one of Edgar Winter’s three Top 40 hits was perched at No. 57 on its way down the chart, having spent two weeks at No. 33 in mid-August. “River’s Risin’” was Winter’s last Top 40 hit and – to these ears – wasn’t quite as good as the two 1973 hits credited to the Edgar Winter Group: “Frankenstein” (No. 1) and “Free Ride” (No. 14).

Edgar Winter – “River’s Risin’” [1974]

I pretty much missed the Split Enz, although I listened to a fair amount of Crowded House, the group the Finn brothers formed after the Split Enz broke up. Around this time in 1980, the Enz’ record “I Got You” was at No. 57. It would climb just four more spots before peaking at No. 53. And although I never sought the record out, I recognize – like almost anyone else, I imagine – the song’s hooky chorus.

When mid-September 1986 rolled around, the No. 57 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 was occupied by “Emotion in Motion,” a single from Rick Ocasek of the Cars. The record would enter the Top 40 a month later and peak at No. 15, taking the top spot on the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. Even twenty-four years later, the video is, if a bit much, still fun to watch:

Our wanderings have brought us to 1992, and we’ll run through the remaining years quickly, as they’re years we don’t often deal with. The No. 57 record in mid-September that year was “Jump!” by the Movement, which went only to No. 53 in the Hot 100 but went to No. 2 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales and to No. 1 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. I missed it entirely.

The Wilkinsons, a country trio, occupied spot No. 57 during the third week in September 1998. Three weeks earlier, “26 Cents” had peaked at No. 55 on the Hot 100, but the record it to No. 3 on the Country Singles chart, the first of seven records the group got into the country chart, though none of the others did as well as “26 Cents.” I missed this one, too, but I may have to go back and check into the Wilkinsons. I likely won’t do the same with the Movement.

The data I have in my files ends with July 2004, so I don’t know what was at No. 57 that September, but to bring things up to the current time, I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 available online for this week. The record currently at No. 57 is “Fancy” by Drake featuring T.I. and Swizz Beatz. I listened to about a minute of it. Wasn’t quite my thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow, I hope, with a new installment of the Ultimate Jukebox.

(One title corrected since first posted; thanks, Yah Shure.)

The Baton Twirler & The Red Army

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

One of the things about music that fascinates me is my reactions to pieces I’ve long loved. When one of those songs cycles randomly through the mp3 player in the kitchen or shows up on the radio while I’m driving down St. Germain, what are the first thoughts, the first images that come to mind?

Mostly, those long-loved songs bring back people, times and places that are also cherished. Sometimes, the connections between the record and the memory images are harder to figure out. I wrote a while back about “Desiderata,” the spoken-word record that was a hit for Les Crane in 1971 and how its strains take me back to a corridor as it existed in 1971 just outside the bookstore at St. Cloud State. Ever since I wrote about that, I’ve pondered at odd moments why that is, what – if anything – that juxtaposition means. And I still sit clueless.

Another record, one I like much more than I like “Desiderata,” presents me with an odd collage of images. Whenever I hear its percussive introduction and its swelling harmonies, I see in my mind – jarringly – Soviet tanks and troops entering Prague, Czechoslovakia, in August 1968, crushing the liberalization of government and life there, a period now known as the Prague Spring.

And after a split-second of that, the strains of “Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues bring to mind something far more normal: the image in memory of a young woman, one who was a baton twirler for the marching band and so much more, walking between classes at South Junior High, looking for something she’s unable to find in front of her. If only she’d turn around, I often thought during that summer of 1968, the summer between freshman and sophomore years, the summer when “Turn Around, Look At Me” went to No. 7.

With its strings piled on top of horns and its lush vocals (ending with what a musician friend of mine used to call “an MGM climax”), “Turn Around, Look At Me” is a beautiful record that is not at all of its time, 1968. Listening to it this morning, I pegged it as being far more appropriate for the years 1957-62, perhaps recorded by one of those male vocal groups with a number in its name: the Four Freshmen, the Four Lads, the Four Dorks. But that displacement in style and time probably worked for the record among the listening public. The week “Turn Around, Look At Me” reached its peak at No. 7, the other songs in the Top Ten were:

“People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals
“Hello, I Love You” by the Doors
“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
“Light My Fire” by José Feliciano
“Stoned Soul Picnic” by the 5th Dimension
“Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream
“Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela
“Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan

That’s a great bunch of songs, but the nearest things to the lush pop of the Vogues there are the Latin-tinged cover of “Light My Fire” and Mason Williams’ instrumental, and neither of those are really in the same block. I don’t have any idea how “Turn Around, Look At Me” did on the chart that’s now called Adult Contemporary, but while the record was still in the Top 40, Reprise released another Vogues’ single, “My Special Angel,” and that one spent one week two weeks atop the AC chart (and peaked, like its predecessor, at No. 7 in the Top 40). So I’m guessing that “Turn Around, Look At Me” did pretty well on the AC chart, as lush as it was.

And for me, the lushness of the Vogues’ pop was certainly one of the attractions of “Turn Around, Look At Me.” Rock music was not yet my thing, and it was nice to hear something easy to listen to coming from the radio, and it was even nicer that the record spoke to my life. As the summer faded and the school year began, I still hoped that the baton twirler might figuratively turn around. She didn’t. The time wasn’t right (although it never would be in her case), and I knew that even as I hoped for a different outcome.

So the song slid from the charts and quit coming out of the radio, but sometime during August, I must have heard the song at least once very close to the time when international news reporters were giving us the lowdown on what was happening in Prague and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia. Because for some forty-two years, when the first strains of that lovely song reach my ears, it seems as if I have to fight my way through the Red Army to get to the sweet object of my hope. And how’s that for a romantic notion?

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Juke Box, No. 20
“Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1008 [1961]
“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers, Columbia 44414 [1968]
‘Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues, Reprise 0686 [1968]
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, United Artists 50721
[1971]
“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 [1971]
“Galileo” by the Indigo Girls from Rites of Passage [1992]

Because of – as I understand it – a record label’s promotional hi-jinks, “Quarter to Three” and the hit that preceded it, “New Orleans,” were credited to one U.S. Bonds rather than to Gary Bonds, which is the singer’s real name. Although the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits lists him as “Gary Bonds (U.S.),” over the years, it’s become commonplace to simply call the performer, as I have, “Gary U.S. Bonds.” Whatever name you call him, his body of work is a good one, and “Quarter to Three,” especially, is a great and infectious party song, one that spent two weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1961.

With “Time Has Come Today,” the Chambers Brothers added psychedelia to their menu of blues, gospel and R&B. This was one of those records that could not be ignored as it came out of the radio, even if the listener were more attuned to other styles. In other words, as “Time Has Come Today” entered the room, it demanded attention, right from the “tick-tock” of the percussion and the lightly spoken “cuckoo!” On the album – The Time Has Come, released in 1967 – the track ran a little longer than eleven minutes; the single edit released in the autumn of 1968 spent nine weeks in the Top 40 and peaked at No. 11.

I wrote a brief bit about the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose about a year ago, and those words still hold true: “The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose had two Top Ten hits, and what great records they were! ‘Treat Her Like A Lady’ was the first of them, riding that chugging guitar, superb hook and gospelish call-and-response all the way to No. 3. ‘Too Late To Turn Back Now,’ which went to No. 2 during the summer of 1972, was also a good record, but it was smoother and somehow less demanding. If forced to choose, I’d give the decision to ‘Treat Her Like A Lady’ on points, but both sounded great coming out of the car radio. (The group had two other Top 40 hits, ‘Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me)’ and ‘I’m Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore,’ neither of which reached the Top Twenty.)” “Treat Her Like A Lady” peaked at No. 3 in July of 1971.

Percussive and jazzy, with a great horn chart, Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” probably should have done better than No. 24, which is where the single spent two weeks during November of 1971. But better singles have performed less well, and the charts – and record bins – were crowded with horn bands in those days: Chicago, BST, Mom’s Apple Pie, Chase, the Ides of March and more. And Lighthouse was from Canada, which might have limited the group’s appeal here in the U.S. But it’s still a great tune: “We’ll fly to the east! We’ll fly to the west! There’s no place we can’t call our own.”

“Galileo,” the Indigo Girls’ meditation on reincarnation, came along at an awkward time for me as a collector. By 1992, when the Indigo Girls released Rites of Passage, I was happily using my growing LP collection to make about one mix-tape a week for friends. But almost no new music was being released on vinyl, and I was still a few years away from having a CD player. So when I heard “Galileo” on the radio, I knew, first, that it was a song I wanted to include on mixes, and second, unless I bought a CD player or ran into some sort of miracle, I’d have to live without it. And I went without for a few years. I eventually got a CD player, and began collecting lots of new music I’d gone without, but at the same time, I kept on buying vinyl. And in late 1999, I found a white-labeled promo album in one of the bins at Cheapo’s. The label was blank and the white jacket had only a sticker that asked three questions, the first of which was: “What artist has been nominated for 4 Grammy awards, won 2, sold over 3 million records and doesn’t get played on very many commercial radio stations?” There was a toll-free phone number listed for those who wanted answers. But what interested me more than the sticker with the questions was the little scrawl on the other side of the front cover: “Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage.” So I bought it, and after I figured out which track was “Galileo,” the song began to show up on my mix-tapes. Eleven years later, and eighteen years after I first heard the song, it remains a favorite of mine, partly for the thoughtful and sometimes witty lyric, partly for the guest spot on the chorus from Jackson Browne and partly because miracles – even small ones – should be embraced.