Posts Tagged ‘Cal Smith’

Chart Digging, March 1973

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Yesterday came and went, bringing with it a storm that left three inches or so of wet, heavy snow. My day included a drive to my mother’s place through said storm with essential supplies, two stints of shoveling the walk and not a single word readied for this blog.

But I did spend some time digging around in the Billboard Hot 100 and its attendant Bubbling Under records from March 3, 1973. (I had to resurrect the Bubbling Under portion of the chart from information online; whoever transcribed the charts I once found in a crevice somewhere on the ’Net occasionally neglected to include that often fascinating portion of many charts.) And most of the records in that Bubbling Under section from that long-ago March 3 were utterly unknown to me.

There are probably two reasons for that lack of familiarity: They generally didn’t rise very high in the chart, and I wasn’t really listening to Top 40 in that season anyway, except for the brief times I was in the car. But from a distance of forty-two years, the reasons why I didn’t hear them back then don’t matter. What matters is that through the amazing numbers of old and rather obscure records posted on YouTube by music geeks like me, I’ve heard them now.

Bobby Goldsboro has popped up in these precincts on occasion. I recall my surprise at how much I liked “Summer (The First Time),” which went to No. 21 in the summer of 1973, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere during the past eight years how much I detest the bathetic “Honey,” which was No. 1 for five weeks on the pop chart and for two weeks on the Easy Listening chart in 1968. And I was pleasantly surprised as I listened to “Brand New Kind Of Love” yesterday. I can’t quite figure out what it reminds me of, but there’s something similar poking its way through the dust on my memory’s shelves. Or maybe it just sounds like 1973, which is always a welcome sound around here. Anyway, in the first week of March 1973, “Brand New Kind Of Love” was sitting at No. 125 in its first week of bubbling. It hung around for six weeks, peaking at No. 116.

Any record that starts out “Hello, Mrs. Johnson, you self-righteous woman,” is worth a listen or two around here, and Cal Smith’s country hit “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” is one I’ve played more than that in the last day or so. Smith’s record was sitting at No. 115 during the first days of March in 1973, and would eventually get up to No. 64 (and to No. 1 on the country chart). The tale of the less-than-righteous calling out the self-righteous is a classic country music device, of course. The one that comes most quickly to mind is Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” in which the narrator’s momma takes on, as she calls them, the “Harper Valley hypocrites.” Smith’s irritation, however, lands solely on Mrs. Johnson even as he acknowledges that his moral shortcomings need some attention: “Me and the good Lord will have us a good talk later tonight.”

“Just get back! That’s where it’s at” is the chant that closes “Back Up” by the Manhattans, which was perched at No. 107 during the first days of that long-ago March. Slinky, funky and cool, “Back Up” was the twelfth single the New Jersey group had gotten in or near the Hot 100 since 1965, with none of them going higher than No. 68. They’d been a presence on the R&B chart, but with only one Top Ten hit: “One Life To Live” in 1972. In a few years, of course, the Manhattans would top the pop chart (and the R&B chart) with “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” and in 1980, they’d make the Top 5 on both charts with “Shining Star.” That was yet to come, however, and “Back Up” bubbled no higher and peaked at No. 19 on the R&B chart.

Mickey Newbury’s name showed up in this space a number of times during this blog’s first few years, but it’s been absent since 2010. I’m not sure why that’s the case, for Newbury – who passed on in 2002 – is pretty high on my list of performers who have been hugely overlooked. His “American Trilogy” – a medley of “Dixie,” “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” and “All My Trials” – went to No. 26 in early 1972, and a year later, Elektra released the title track of his Heaven Help The Child album as a single. It was bubbling under at No. 106 in that chart of March 3, 1973, and in another three weeks, it went up only to No. 103 before going away. It’s a gorgeous piece. Here’s how it sounded on the album: