Saturday Single No. 511

I’ve dithered long enough this morning, sitting here at the computer, looking vainly through Billboard charts and glaring at white space on the screen. Ideas come and go, none of them growing into fruit.

So I’m turning this morning’s exercise over to Odd and Pop. Odd’s instructions are to look at the Hot 100 (and its Bubbling Under section) from this week in 1970, our favorite radio year, and find the strangest title he can.

Pop’s job at that point is to tell us what he knows about the record.

And my job is to put it up on the website. So here we go.

Odd reports that he started at the bottom of the Bubbling Under section, thinking that less familiar titles might sound stranger than familiar ones. After all, he notes, “Many strange titles, like ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ for instance, no longer seem strange because we’ve known them for years.” (Pop interrupts, as he tends to do, to say that even though the Iron Butterfly single is clumsily edited, it works much better than the sleep-inducing album track.)

Odd pulls us back on track. Three titles stand out for weirdness from this week in 1970: “Money Music” by the Boys in the Band at No. 104; “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image at No. 95; and “Screaming Night Hog” by Steppenwolf at No. 72. “That last,” he says, “is of course about a motorcycle, but the words are a strange combination.” He shrugs. “Still, I think the strangest title is the Blues Image record: ‘Gas Lamps and Clay.’ So there you go.”

I turn to Pop, eyebrows raised.

“Well,” he says, “it was the second record in the charts for Blues Image, after they hit No. 4 with ‘Ride Captain Ride’ in the spring of 1970.” Pop pauses for a second. “Oddly enough,” he adds distractedly, “one of the members of Blues Image, Mike Pinera, had been in Iron Butterfly and bears some responsibility for ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’.”

“Focus!” says Odd.

Pop nods. “Okay,” he says. “Well, ‘Gas Lamps and Clay’ was around for just four weeks in September and October of 1970. It peaked at No. 81. And no one ever heard about Blues Image ever again.”

Odd asks “What’s it about?”

Pop shrugs. “The chorus is about being who you are, but how it gets to that, I have no idea. But face it, it was 1970. You can take a look at the lyrics. I think they’re right.”

I was out at the old mill pond
A week ago today
What I saw was a small gas lamp
And pots made out of clay

When I wiped off a little dust
Smoke began to rise
Out of a cloud came a frightful sight
Of people running, child

And they sang, la la la la . . .

When I sat down beside the lamp
I couldn’t believe my eyes
They were blowing a bubble pipe
About two times the size

As they sang, la la la la . . .

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

“I love it!” Odd says.

Pop nods a little glumly. “I knew you would.”

And that’s how “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image came to be today’s Saturday Single.


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