Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

No. 55, Fifty-Five Years Ago (June 1966)

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

It’s been a couple of years since we looked at a chart from 1966 for any reason, so we’re going to head that direction this morning and then play a game of Symmetry. Here are the top ten records from the Billboard Hot 100 from the third week in June 1966, fifty-five years ago:

“Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones
“Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“I Am A Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel
“When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge
“Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra
“A Groovy Kind Of Love” by the Mindbenders
“Barefootin’” by Robert Parker
“Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Cool Jerk” by the Capitols
“Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle

As I typed that list, I knew nine of those ten, and a trip to YouTube refreshed my memory of “Green Grass.” How many of those would I have known fifty-five years ago, though?

I was twelve, between seventh and eighth grades, and that might have been the summer that I took summer school courses in cooking and World War II history, or it might have been chemistry and Spanish. And I wasn’t yet very interested in pop music, so any of those records I remember, I remember only because I heard then when I was with my peers and the radio was on, not because I was listening.

I have vague memories of hearing the records by the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, the Lovin’s Spoonful, Percy Sledge and the Cyrkle. And I know I heard the Frank Sinatra single: I was still an easy listening kid, and “Strangers In The Night” topped the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks. I no doubt heard it on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on the two St. Cloud stations, WJON and KFAM. And I liked it, too.

I also liked “I Am A Rock” and “Red Rubber Ball,” as well as “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” although the dilemma facing the singer in that tune bemused me. I could not imagine myself in a position of having to make a choice between two willing girls. (I marked that one off on my bucket list not quite ten years later.) On the other hand, even though I knew it fifty-five years ago, I have never really liked “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and I don’t have any idea why that is.

How about now? Do any of those records fit into my day-to-day listening? Let’s look at the iPod. Four of them are there: The records by Sinatra, the Stones, the Cyrkle and the Capitols. That last is a surprise, almost as much of a surprise as the absence of “I Am A Rock.”

Now, to our other business today: Checking out the record that sat at No. 55 in the middle of June 1966. Not unsurprisingly, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, much less heard: “Come Running Back” by Dean Martin. Back then, I knew “Everybody Loves Somebody,” Martin’s No. 1 hit from 1964, and I think I’d heard “Houston” on one of the 45s that I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley.

But that was the limit of my Dean Martin lore then. In the past few years, I’ve added a hits package to the digital shelves, but I don’t know much of it well except “Volare” and “That’s Amore.” Add “Mambo Italiano” from my cabaret adventures with Lucille and Heather a few years ago, and that’s the extent of my Dean Martin awareness.

“Come Running Back” is an okay record – it’s a mid-Sixties swingin’ and brassy Pack Rat joint – except for the shrillness of the background singers, and since they pretty much start things off, well, that takes off some points right there. Lyrically, it’s pretty simple: She’s gone and he’s saying that if things don’t work out, come on home. Yeah, we’ve found better records on our dives into the charts, but we’ve also found much, much worse.

“Come Running Back” peaked at No. 35 on the Hot 100 and at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 740

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

According to the book Billboard #1s, a Joel Whitburn publication, here were the records at the top of the various charts published in the June 12, 1971 edition, fifty years ago today:

Hot 100: “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
R&B singles: “Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
Country singles: “You’re My Man” by Lynn Anderson
AC singles: “Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
Pop albums: Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
R&B albums: Maybe Tomorrow by the Jackson 5
Country albums: Hag by Merle Haggard

I know three of the four singles well, but only one of the three albums. My knowledge of the artists from that list whose works I do not know well forms a pyramid: I know the Jackson 5’s hits but none of their albums; I know Anderson’s biggest hit, “Rose Garden,” but no more than that; and I know only a sliver of Haggard’s mountain of work: “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Pancho & Lefty” are what came to mind.

And I imagine that kind of differential would be the norm no matter what week’s listings I pulled from the Whitburn book.

I got the LP of Sticky Fingers in late 1972, among a batch of albums ordered from a record club, and it went into heavy rotation in the basement rec room that autumn and winter. Along with the singles, “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses,” my favorites were “Moonlight Mile” and “You Gotta Move.” That last song was credited on the LP in 1971 to Mississippi Fred McDowell, which is what I expected, but the credits on the Sticky Fingers CD release add Rev. Gary Davis, which I did not expect.

Davis recorded his version of the tune in 1953, according to Second Hand Songs, and McDowell’s version was not recorded until 1965 (though he no doubt had been performing the song for years before that). But given that recorded versions of the song date to at least 1944, according to SHS, the credit even to McDowell seems questionable. SHS calls the song traditional.

Wherever it came from, it’s a good song. Here it is as the Stones released it on the No. 1 album from fifty years ago. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, June 4th, 2021

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of 1971, fifty years ago. Along the way, we’ll check out the Top Ten from that week and see how they stacked up then and whether they matter now.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten released on June 5 of that year, fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet and Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo

Back then, having just graduated from high school and about to start a summer of lawn-mowing, janitoring and floor-cleaning at St. Cloud State, I liked most of those. The Donny Osmond single left me pretty blah, and something about Lobo’s single bothered me. (Maybe it was “the wheatfields of St. Paul” and the farmer from whom the narrator stole eggs. Not the St. Paul I knew.)

And I do not at all recall hearing Aretha’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the time, even though it went to No. 24 on the Twin Cities’ KDWB. (I don’t think I heard that meditative take on Paul Simon’s masterpiece until I sought it out after reading a Dave Marsh piece about it during the early 1990s.) The flipside went unheard until the Nineties as well.

The others, though, would make up a more than pleasant stretch of listening. My favorites among them? The Stones, Ringo, the Carole King A-side and the Carpenters. And not much has changed today. Those four are in my current day-to-day listening in the iPod, along with “Want Ads” and “Joy To The World.” (I maybe should add “I Feel The Earth Move.” We’ll see.)

Now to our other business, checking out the No. 50 record from fifty years ago. And we find a slow and sad piece of soul from an artist who doesn’t show up here very often: “I Cried” by James Brown. There are several videos of the tune at YouTube, and under one of them, a commenter said, “This is how you sing a soul song.” I agree. (The record went no higher in the Hot 100, but it did go to No. 15 on the magazine’s R&B chart.)

What’s At No. 100? (June 1976)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten records for the first week of June 1976. We’re going to talk about them a little bit and then drop to the bottom of the chart and see what was at No. 100 that week.

“Love Hangover” by Diana Ross
“Silly Love Songs” by Wings
“Get Up And Boogie (That’s Right)” by Silver Convention
“Misty Blue” by Dorothy Moore
“Happy Days” by Pratt & McLain
“Shannon” by Henry Gross
“Welcome Back” by John Sebastian
“Sara Smile” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
“Shop Around” by the Captain & Tennille
“Fool To Cry/Hot Stuff” by the Rolling Stones

Boy, forty-five years later, I really like only one of those: Moore’s heart-breaking, lovelorn “Misty Blue.”  As I wrote not quite three years ago:

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

As for the rest, there are some virtues: “Silly Love Songs” has a world-class bass line, but is really just another McCartney trifle (this time about writing trifles). “Sara Smile” is sweet. “Fool To Cry” has a great Jagger vocal, but I can take or leave the flip side. The Captain & Tennille manage not to offend the Miracles with their cover of “Shop Around.” And silly as it is, “Get Up And Boogie (That’s Right)” was fun as the disco era was dawning.

I didn’t care about “Love Hangover” one way or another (and still don’t), but “Happy Days,” “Shannon,” and “Welcome Back” were all records that make me push the button for another station. (Actually, “Shannon” popped up the other day when I was taking a nap with the cable company’s Seventies channel on in the background. I heard the opening, groaned, rolled over and went back to sleep.)

And these days? I was stunned to find that none of those eleven records was in the iPod, the source of my day-to-day listening. I quickly added “Misty Blue,” and my work there was done. “Silly Love Songs” and “Fool To Cry” might be added later today.

Digging deeper into the Hot 100 from forty-five years ago this week, we’ll stop at No. 100, where we find a record I’ve never heard before: “Touch & Go” by the group Ecstasy, Passion & Pain, featuring Barbara Roy. It’s a dance outing with a decent instrumental backing, but boy, Roy’s vocals are lacking, being by turns strained and uncertain of pitch.

The R&B/dance group came out of New York City, and before adding “featuring Barbara Roy” to the credits, it had one record bubble under and then three entries reach the Hot 100, with “One Beautiful Day” hitting No. 48 in the spring of 1975. “Touch & Go,” the group’s last charting record, moved up to No. 98 the next week and then was gone.

Chart Digging: LPs, May 1971

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Here are the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from the third week in May 1971, fifty years ago:

4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jesus Christ Superstar (Original concept album)
Up To Date by the Partridge Family
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Golden Bisquits by Three Dog Night
Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon by James Taylor
Tapestry by Carole King
Tea For The Tillerman by Cat Stevens
Survival by Grand Funk Railroad
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones

I know eight of those, and I know most of those eight very well. The only mysteries would be the albums by Grand Funk Railroad and the Partridge Family, though I imagine I might recognize some tracks on the latter from radio play at the time.

I had a copy of 4 Way Street for a time; Rick brought it over one evening in 1974 when he was clearing his shelves of stuff that no longer fit into his listening aesthetic. (He was moving quickly into a heavy Poco and Gram Parsons period.) I’d heard 4 Way Street at his place when he got it, and although I liked some of the performances on it – and I was pleased to have the album at a time when I was homebound – I never did find the album to be essential listening.

There were too many ragged performances, and it just wasn’t fun listening. (As I understand it, of course, the band wasn’t really having fun, either). My vinyl copy of the record left here during the big sell-off a few years ago, I’ve never had a CD copy of the album, and only one track from the album – the lovely performance of “The Lee Shore” – is on the digital shelves.

(I’ve heard some of the live collection from the 1974 tour of the quartet, and those performances sound fairly good. I was at one of those shows, and at least on that evening in St. Paul, it seemed like the four men almost liked each other. I might add that album to the collection someday.)

Of the others, the one I know least is likely the James Taylor album. I have it on the digital shelves but nowhere else, and it’s never seemed essential to me. As to Three Dog Night, the Texas Gal’s long-loved copy of Golden Bisquits is still in the vinyl stacks, and somewhere among the CDs we have a newer anthology from the group.

The other five albums – Jesus Christ Superstar and those by Joplin, Stevens, King, and the Rolling Stones – were essential listening to me during my college and early adulthood years with Tea For The Tillerman coming into the mix a little later than the others. During those years, I’d guess that at least one of those first four – Tapestry, Sticky Fingers, Pearl and Jesus Christ Superstar – was on the stereo every week.

Are they still that vital to me? Let’s check the iPod, where we find one track from Jesus Christ Superstar (the title track), four tracks each from the albums by Stevens and the Rolling Stones, six tracks from Pearl, six tracks from Three Dog Night’s Golden Bisquits, and eight tracks from Tapestry.

When this chart came out, I was seventeen, still three-and-a-half months from eighteen. As always, I ask myself: Is my affection for the music of that time because of the joy of memory or for the quality of the music? Well, it’s great music. Of that, I am certain. But the memories of that time – most of them, anyway – are good, too. So as always, I don’t know.

It’s hard to pick a single favorite track from any of those albums. So I’m going to go with a track from the Joplin album that ran through my dreams the other night when I was not sleeping well: “Half Moon,” written by John and Johanna Hall.

What’s At No. 200? (LPs, March 1970)

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Digging into the bottom of the singles in the Billboard Hot 100, as we frequently do here, often finds us listening to records that, well, are unfamiliar and perhaps . . . well “odd” is a good word. The bottom of the singles chart can be a strange place.

And when one dives into the bottom of the magazine’s album chart, the Billboard 200, well . . . it’s a deeper dive, and the denizens of deeper portions of that sea can be unfamiliar as well, the kind of thing that we here in Minnesota would listen to politely and then say, “Well, that’s different.”

We’re heading into that deeper place this morning, checking out the No. 200 album in the chart released on March 27, 1971, fifty year ago this week. Before heading into the depths, we’ll take a look at the Top Ten. (Just for fun, I’m going to tag onto each title in parentheses the year I acquired the album, if I ever did, adding a + if the album sits in the CD stacks.)

Pearl by Janis Joplin (1971+)
Love Story soundtrack
The Cry Of Love by Jimi Hendrix (1999)
Chicago III (1989+)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971)
Abraxas by Santana (1989)
Love Story by Andy Williams
Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John (1988+)
All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (1981+)
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand (1992+)

Well, eight of them on vinyl, five on CD, and all of those eight, plus the Love Story soundtrack, are on the digital shelves, leaving only the Andy Williams album ignored. This chart obviously falls in the thick of my sweet spot, though I don’t know every album well.

The three I know best, unsurprisingly, are the three I’ve had the longest: the albums by Joplin and Harrison and Jesus Christ Superstar. And if I had to choose two more to supplement those three on a desert island, I’d add the Streisand and the Chicago. (And I would venture that nothing in this paragraph is a surprise to anyone who’s read this blog for even a very short time.)

And although the results will be similarly unsurprising, we’ll employ my usual measuring tool for current relevance and see which of those albums has the most tracks among the 2,900 or so tracks in my iPod that make up my day-to-day listening.

The tally: Harrison 8, Joplin 6, Streisand 3, Santana and Elton John, 2 each, Jesus Christ Superstar 1, with Lai, Hendrix, Chicago and Andy Williams shut out. And “Free” from Chicago might end that album’s shutout this week.

And now to our other business here, checking out the bottom spot in that long-age LP chart. And we find Sugar by jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. I’ve heard the name but know little about the man’s work. The album was in its second week in the chart, both weeks at No. 200. It would move to No. 182 a week later and then fall from the chart.

Sugar was one of sixteen albums that Turrentine would get into the Billboard 200 between 1967 and 1981, most of those failing to get into the top half of the chart. Of the six that reached the Top 100, 1978’s West Side Highway did the best, getting to No. 63.

Sugar seems to have been an odd album, but I don’t know, not really knowing the man’s work. Albums released before and after Sugar seem to be a mix: Some are filled with short tracks – three minutes or less – covering pop songs of the day. Some have a few short tracks and a couple lengthier works. Sugar in its 1970 form had three long tracks, all running ten minutes or more. (Reissues have altered that over the years.)

Here’s a link to the title track. (Although the video credits the piece to the Stanley Turrentine Sextet, the record is credited at discogs to Turrentine alone. The jacket front does list three other musicians: trumpeter Ron Carter, guitarist George Benson and bassist Freddie Hubbard. And the liner notes mention drummer Billy Kaye, organist Butch Cornell, as well as Lonnie Smith, Jr., on keyboards and Richie “Pablo” Landrum on congas.)

No. 46, Forty-Six Years Ago

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Looking for a quick Friday fix, we’re playing another game of Symmetry, this time looking back to 1975 and the Billboard Hot 100 that was released on March 22 of that year. We’ll check out the top two records of the week and then see what was sitting at No. 46 in that chart from forty-six years ago.

Sitting in the top two spots were two pretty good records: “My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli at No. 1 and “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle. The latter made my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, and maybe the Franki Valli record should have, too. Coincidentally, I’ve heard both of these this week on the Seventies cable channel the Texas Gal plays as she’s working on jigsaw puzzles.

But what’s at No. 46? Well, it’s a lesser Harry Chapin record: “I Wanna Learn A Love Song,” pulled from his album Verities & Balderdash. It was the follow-up on the charts to “Cat’s In The Cradle,” which had gone to No. 1 in December 1974 (though “What Made America Famous” had been released between the two records and had not hit the charts).

When I saw the title, I did not recall the record, but five seconds into listening, I remembered the tale of the itinerant musician who wins another man’s wife with his guitar and his songs. The record didn’t go much higher on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 42, but it went to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 728

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

It’s been a while since we played “Symmetry” here, so we’re going to pull up the Billboard Hot 100 from March 13, 1971, and check out what record was at No. 50 exactly fifty years ago.

We’ll start, as we customarily do, with the Top Ten:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Me & Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
“For All We Know” by the Carpenters
“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by the Temptations
“She’s A Lady” by Tom Jones
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain/Hey Tonight” by CCR
“Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” by the Partridge Family
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot

At the time, I was heading into my last few months of high school, and I got my radio fixes mostly from WJON down across the railroad tracks in the hours before bedtime and from WLS when I went to bed. The radio was pulled right up to the edge of my nightstand, and I’d keep the volume down low enough that the music coming from the Chicago giant would lull me to sleep. The Twin cities KDWB supplied daytime tunes, but that happened infrequently.

Nine of those eleven were familiar back then. I think I may have heard the Partridge Family record at the time, as it was vaguely familiar when I came across it on an anthology in the mid-1990s. If I ever heard “Mama’s Pearl” in 1971, it was either not frequently enough to register or loud enough to wake me up as I slid toward sleep. The only times I recall hearing it have come in the fourteen years I’ve been writing this blog.

The other nine, though, are lodged in my memory, and two of them – the Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot records – are among my favorites and have burrowed deep inside. (Just yesterday, I was down in my corner of the family room working on baseball statistics while the Texas Gal was working on a jigsaw puzzle upstairs with one of the music channels keeping her company. I was only vaguely aware of the sounds of “Bobby McGee” coming down the stairs as I bent over a stat sheet, but my hands knew, as I suddenly realized I was playing air piano and air organ during the long instrumental break at the end of the record.)

I used to love the Turners’ “Proud Mary,” but now I’m a little tired of it, and the same goes for “One Bad Apple,” which has been in my iPod for years now but may be retired soon.

Which of the others are in my iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening? The Joplin and the Lightfoot, certainly, along with the Temptations and both sides of the Creedence single. Adding in the Osmonds, that makes six. The Carpenters and Tom Jones may be added. The Turners and the Jacksons won’t be. The Partridge Family? Maybe.

And now, let’s drop to No. 50 from fifty years ago. And we find B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” a track pulled from the album Indianola Mississippi Seeds. The record was climbing the Hot 100, heading for a peak at No. 40, while over on the magazine’s R&B chart, it was at its peak of No. 18.

It’s an interesting record, in that it’s got more piano in it than I tend to expect of a King record, but a quick look at the credits at both AllMusic and discogs tells me that Carole King was around for the album sessions. I wish I had track-by-track information, but I don’t. Even without knowing for sure who’s on the piano, it’s a good listen, which means that B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions” is today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (February 1971)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Well, the Billboard Top Ten from the last week in February 1971 – fifty years ago – doesn’t hold many surprises:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Knock Three Times” by Dawn
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
“I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmunds
“Sweet Mary” by Wadsworth Mansion
“Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed
“Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Me & Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin

Man, there are a bunch of short titles in there. That list might set a record for the Top Ten with the fewest words in its ten titles: Thirty, making for an average of three words per title.

That, of course, says nothing about the quality of the records, which is pretty good, as I sort it out. (As always, I’m confronted by the quandary: Do I assess these records as I would have when the chart was new, or do I look at them from today’s perch? I end up doing a little bit of both, I imagine.)

What did I like back then? I liked the records by Anderson and Lightfoot. I liked “Sweet Mary,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Bobbie McGee.” And fifty years later, only “Rose Garden” isn’t as good as it used to be.

I liked “I Hear You Knocking,” but I didn’t understand why the vocal sounded as if it were pinched somehow, and I really didn’t get why Edmunds hollered out what seemed like random names during the instrumental. I recognized only one of the names – Chuck Berry – and that one only vaguely. I could have used the record as a road map to learn more about music if I’d only paid attention or had someone to ask, I guess. I like it a lot more today, knowing what Edmunds was up to, than I did then.

“One Bad Apple” and “Amos Moses” didn’t do it for me when I was seventeen. I’ve changed my mind about the Jerry Reed single but not about the Osmonds’. The Dawn record was a hoot in 1971; when it played on the jukebox in St. Cloud Tech High’s multi-purpose room, kids would use their fists on the lunch tables to knock three times themselves. It’s a nice memory today. I don’t recall hearing “Mama’s Pearl” back then at all. And from 2021, it’s just okay.

What, then, do we find when we drop to the bottom of that Hot 100, which came out on February 27, 1971?

We find “Super Highway” by Ballin’ Jack, a record that kind of fits into the “back to the land” ethos that permeated a lot of tunes at the time, or if not “back to the land” at least offered a critique of society’s tendency to trade land for asphalt.

The chorus, specifically, tugs at me:

Super highway tearing through my city
Super highway tearing through my town
Super highway tearing through my country
Super highway, got to tear it down

We seem in the United States these days to at least be starting to reckon with how our culture has treated the cultures of people of color. Whether that turns into a long-term effort is, of course, an open question. But among the topics I’ve seen raised lately in news coverage and in online gathering spots is how the routing of the Interstate Highway system literally tore apart inner-city communities of color.

Here in Minnesota, St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood – the center of Black culture in the city – was shredded when I-94 was routed through the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I think a similar thing happened, though not to the same degree, when the western segment of I-35 was routed through South Minneapolis. And Ballin’ Jack was singing about it – or something very much like it – fifty years ago.

Ballin’ Jack was, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, an interracial jazz-rock group from San Francisco. “Super Highway” was the group’s only single to hit the Hot 100, topping out during a four-week run at No. 93. The single was a very tight edit of a longer track on the group’s first album, a self-titled effort that hit No. 180 on the Billboard 200.

The album track starts with a slow introduction that kills the track before it begins to rock, while the single kicks from the start, sort of like what happened not quite a year earlier with the punchy radio single of Pacific Gas & Electric’s “Are You Ready” and the slowly starting album track.

Here’s the single of “Super Highway,” which would have been a fine piece of horn band rock if the writers had developed the lyric – which is way too repetitive – a lot more.

A Survey From St. Cloud!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I have no idea how many times in the past fourteen years I’ve written about WJON, the AM radio station that brought me a lot of my Top 40 fixes during my teenage years. More than I want to count, I’m sure.

Settled on Lincoln Avenue just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house on Kilian Boulevard, WJON and its disk jockeys eased my way, starting in the summer of 1969, from being a soundtrack and trumpet nerd into knowing a little bit more about the music my peers had been listening to for a long time.

(And that continues today, as I often get a note of enlightenment here from my friend Yah Shure, whose career in radio includes a late 1970s stint at WJON; our paths did not cross, however, as he arrived in St. Cloud about the time I decamped to Monticello, thirty miles away, for a newspapering gig.)

Similarly, I have no idea how many times I’ve stopped by the Airheads Radio Survey Archive for fodder for a post here. But until recently, I’d not found one survey from St. Cloud from the years I lived there and listened to Top 40. There were a few from KFAM, another AM station now called KNSI, from the 1940s and 1950s, and there were some from the early 1980s from KCLD, an FM sister station of KFAM/KNSI.

The other week, though, I found one survey at the site from WJON, a survey issued February 9, 1976, forty-five years ago today. Now, I guess I wasn’t really living in St. Cloud at the time, as I was taking my internship in the Twin Cities, but I was in St. Cloud every other weekend or so, so I would have heard whatever it was WJON was offering at the time. Here’s the top ten:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

That’s a “meh” from here. I liked “Convoy,” but like all novelty records, it’s got a limited shelf life. I liked the Manilow then, but now, not so much. I still like the Simon and the ELO records, and the Carmen is good from time to time.

Lower down, however, there are some records I liked better: “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees at No. 17, “Break Away” by Art Garfunkel at No. 25, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by the 4 Seasons at No. 27, “Somewhere In The Night,” by Helen Reddy at No. 37, and a few more.

But the record at No. 18 in that forty-five-year-old survey popped up on my iPod the other day, and reminded me of something I wrote here about three years ago:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not-so-subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.