Posts Tagged ‘Gentrys’

Chart Digging For Covers: June 20, 1970

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

As often as I’ve messed around over the past six years with Billboard Hot 100 charts from one week or another, and as often as I’ve looked for cover versions of familiar records, I’ve never taken the time to look at one specific Hot 100 for cover versions. So I don’t know if the Hot 100 from June 20, 1970 – forty-three years ago today – was typical or atypical.

I do know that it was a mother lode for those seeking covers of familiar records.

The riches begin at No. 25, where we find “It’s All In The Game” by the Four Tops. It’s a cover of the song that was No. 1 for Tommy Edwards in 1958 and that’s also charted for Cliff Richard (No. 25, 1964) and Isaac Hayes (No. 80, 1980) and bubbled under for Jackie DeShannon (No. 110, 1967). It’s also the only hit ever written by a vice-president of the United States, as it uses a tune that was called “Melody in A Major” when it was written in 1912 by Charles Gates Dawes, who later served as vice-president from 1925 to 1929. The Tops’ version of “It’s All In The Game” peaked at No. 24.

From there, we head to No. 28, where Wilson Pickett’s two-sided entry “Sugar, Sugar/ Cole, Cooke & Redding” sat on its way to No. 25. The B-side is a tribute to Nat “King” Cole, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but it’s “Sugar, Sugar” on the A-side that matters today, as it’s Pickett’s cover of the Archies’ hit – No. 1 for four weeks – from 1969.

Earlier in 1970, Brook Benton had a No. 4 hit with “A Rainy Night In Georgia” and had followed that up with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s No. 27 hit from 1969, “My Way,” which stalled at No. 72. Benton’s next single came from the catalog of a fellow Southerner, as he turned to “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South. The original version of the tune, credited to Joe South & The Believers, had gone to No. 41 in 1969; Benton’s version would peak at No. 45.

Maybe Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” didn’t carry in 1970 the mythic weight it seems to have today, or maybe that weight is just something I perceive because “Into The Mystic” is a song that is dear to both the Texas Gal and me, but it seems to me that it took a lot of guts for Johnny Rivers to cover Morrison’s tune so soon after Morrison released it on Moondance in February 1970. Rivers’ version of the classic tune – the only version ever to hit the Hot 100 – was at No. 58 forty years ago today, having peaked earlier at No. 51. As the tune played this morning, I took a look at the credits for Rivers’ Slim Slo Slider, the album that includes “Into The Mystic,” and I learned that the gorgeous saxophone solo comes from Jim Horn, the piano work is from the late Larry Knechtel, and the drum work is from either Hal Blaine or Ronnie Tutt. I’d bet on Blaine.

According to the website Second Hand Songs, Neil Young released his single of “Cinnamon Girl” in April 1969, just ahead of the May release of the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but the single didn’t enter the Hot 100 until more than a year later. It entered the chart forty-three years ago today, starting out at No. 95. Its presence on the chart was spurred, I would imagine, by the fact that the Gentrys’ very similar cover of “Cinnamon Girl” was in its tenth week on the chart, sitting at No. 63 after peaking at No. 52. Young’s version of the song didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 55.

The gorgeous song “Maybe” first showed up on the charts in 1958, when the Chantels’ version went to No. 15. Since that time, charting (or near-charting) versions had come from the Shangri-Las (No. 91, 1965), the Chantels (No. 116 with a 1969 re-release on a new label) and Janis Joplin (No. 110 in 1970). Next came the Three Degrees, adding a spoken soap opera introduction to “Maybe” that – from the vantage point of more than forty years – doesn’t seem to work. Listeners back then seemed to like it, though; the record, which was sitting at No. 69 on June 20, eventually peaked at No. 29.

Well, that’s six, and that’s more enough for today. But I could go on for a while yet, as that chart from June 20, 1970, also included Merry Clayton’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Peggy Lipton’s take on Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Rare Earth’s cover of the Temptations’ “Get Ready,” the Assembled Multitude’s version of the Who’s “Overture from ‘Tommy’,” Paul Davis’ cover of the Jarmels’ “A Little Bit of Soap,” Ike & Tina Turner & The Ikettes’ take on Sly & The Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher,” Vic Dana’s version of Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red Wine,” Johnny Taylor’s cover of Jimmy Hughes’ “Steal Away,” the Satisfactions’ version of Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” and Miguel Rios’ reworking of the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 into “A Song of Joy.” And I probably missed some.

Chart Digging: May 11, 1968

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A couple of days ago, I posted a preview of today’s post, a video of Los Bravos’ 1968 single “Bring A Little Lovin’,” which ended up peaking at No. 51. What I forgot to mention in that preview was that in the Billboard Hot 100 of May 11, 1968 – forty-three years ago today – the record was sitting at No. 135, on the very last rung of the Bubbling Under section of the chart, with nothing underneath it but air.

And it was a great record.

That, to me, is the joy of these Chart Digging posts, finding record that were never huge hits but are still records worth hearing. Now, a good number of the records I highlight from the lower levels of the Hot 100 aren’t nearly as good as the Los Bravos side I highlighted earlier this week. After all, I do enjoy records that are odd, and I do shed light on some that are horrendously bad. But they’re all fun, especially those that deserved a wider hearing than they got.

So, armed with some books and the irreplaceable assistance of folks who post obscure music at YouTube, I went looking for gems in the lower levels of the May 11, 1968 chart.

As a point of reference, here are the tunes that were in the Top Ten in that chart:

“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro
“Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells
“Young Girl” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” by Hugo Montenegro
“Cry Like A Baby” by the Box Tops
“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals
“Cowboys to Girls” by the Intruders
“The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers
“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Lady Madonna” by the Beatles

Well, except for the Goldsboro single, that’s a nice set. The Irish Rovers’ tune isn’t all that great, either, but it’s not nearly as bad as “Honey.” And there are some obvious gems in there.

There are a few gems in the far reaches of the Hot 100, too. And I’ve found a couple of things that are more cut glass than gem, but they’re worth a look, too.

 Among the music the Texas Gal brought with her to Minnesota almost a decade ago was a multi-disc set of Neil Diamond’s music. For me, one of the great surprises in that set was a tune called “Brooklyn Roads.” Brooklyn after World War II – because of its ethnic make-up, because of its proximity to and distance from Manhattan, because of the Dodgers – has become a myth unto itself, and it seems to me that any creative artist who makes the post-war borough a central part of any work risks sliding into cliché. But drawing on his childhood and youth in that New York borough, Diamond manages not only to avoid most clichés (the butcher shop downstairs, true though it might be, is one), but sketches a detailed and moving portrait of himself in that urban setting.

“Brooklyn Roads” was at No. 98 forty-three years ago today and would climb as high as No. 58. By May 1968, Diamond had already placed nine records in the Hot 100; he’d wind up with fifty-six, thirteen of them in the Top Ten and three at No. 1.

Most folks my age think of Michelle Lee as the gal who played Karen MacKenzie on Knots Landing, the CBS television drama that ran from 1979 into 1993. (That span of years surprised me; I had no clue the show was around for that long.) But in 1968, Michelle Lee made her one appearance in the Hot 100 when “L. David Sloane” went to No. 52. It’s a cute record, and in the Hot 100 from forty-three years ago today, it was at No. 72.

As 1967 had turned to 1968, the Lemon Pipers had found their way to No. 1 with “Green Tambourine,” a pleasant confection from the bubblegum factory at Buddah. By the time the spring of 1968 rolled around, the Pipers and the Buddah production folks were grasping at straws. Sitting at No. 101 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade),” a mess of a record redeemed only by what I think are a few slightly naughty double entendres. (Read the lyrics included with the video.) Abysmal as it was, “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade)” managed to get to No. 51. [In a comment below, friend and frequent commenter Yah Shure notes that the video originally linked was the album version of the recording. I’ve since linked to the single version. which he said was a favorite of his at the time. The album version is here.]

Despite knowing many bits of Beatles trivia, I was unaware of the group called Grapefruit until this morning. My first thought when I listened to “Elevator” was that it sounded a fair amount like the Beatles and Badfinger. So I did some digging: Grapefruit was formed by George Alexander, who was also signed as a songwriter by the Beatles’ Apple Music Publishing Ltd. And the group, according to Wikipedia, got some help from the Beatles: “The group was launched by the Beatles with a press conference in 1968, on January 17, with the first single ‘Dear Delilah’. It went to number 21 in the UK single chart in February 1968. Paul McCartney directed a promo film (never released) for the single ‘Elevator’. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended and helped in their recording sessions for the singles, as Grapefruit didn’t have a producer at the time.” Forty-three years ago today, “Elevator” was at No. 113, and it would go no higher. But it sounds better than that. So I consider the information from Wikipedia, the credit “Produced by: Apple Music Ltd.” on the single and the general sound of the record, and it all makes sense.

Another good track I found this morning was a slice of propulsive British R&B. Sitting at No. 126 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Looking Back” by the Spencer Davis Group. I have to wonder how a record this good can miss, but it didn’t do well, climbing only another thirteen spots before disappearing. It was the last time the Spencer Davis Group would come close to the Hot 100.

Near the bottom of the Bubbling Under section from the May 11, 1968, Hot 100, we find the Gentrys. After “Keep On Dancing” got to No. 4 in 1965, the band from Memphis kept on trying to replicate that record’s performance. Five more singles on MGM failed to reach the Top 40 (three of them bubbled under but failed to crack the Hot 100), and the band ended up at Bell Records in early 1968. “I Can’t Go Back To Denver” was at No. 133 in the Bubbling Under section on this date in 1968. It would rise one more spot, to No. 132, before falling out of the chart. I thought it was a pretty good single. (After that, the Gentrys went to Sun Records and saw five more singles reach the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section although none hit the Top 40. The best performance came from their No. 52 version of “Cinnamon Girl,” which I wrote about briefly last month.)

Chart Digging: Late April 1970

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

I suppose it was inevitable that I slept through most of the movie.

In the spring of 1970, St. Cloud Tech High School sent its Concert Choir on a two-day trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba. We performed three times: At a school, in a shopping mall and on the long steps inside the provincial capitol building.

We also took advantage of our free time during our one night in Winnipeg, heading in groups from the downtown hotel out into the Canadian evening. I really don’t recall with whom I hit the Winnipeg streets that night, except that I’m sure that my pal Mike and I were in the same bunch. We stopped for dinner and then headed into an area of the city that had a fair number of movie theaters.

We looked around at the marquees, the eight or so of us, assessing our options. Earlier that day, as we rode the bus through downtown to one of our performances, we’d seen the theater where the current feature was I Am Curious (Yellow). That had gotten our attention, as the Swedish film was quite notorious. Not only was the film revolutionary in its structure – Wikipedia notes that “the movie uses jump cuts and its story is not structured in a conventional Hollywood way” – but it was said to be one of the most sexually frank films ever. It had originally been banned in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, an action that was reversed by a U.S. federal court.

From where the eight of us stood after dinner that evening, we could see the theater where I Am Curious (Yellow) was playing. Were we tempted to head down the street and take in the steamy – and, based on my reading, politically turgid – Swedish movie? Perhaps, but we were certainly too timid. I’m not sure we could have gotten in; I imagine there were some age restrictions for steamy movies in Canada at the time, and the eight of us were all sixteen or seventeen.

But we didn’t even head that way. I’m not sure that any of us thought about it seriously. We considered seeing Midnight Cowboy, the Dustin Hoffman/John Voigt film that had recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture. (It remains the only X-rated film to have done so, although on a re-release without any changes, the film was re-rated R.) Some of the students in the choir saw Midnight Cowboy that evening. But not the group I was in.

For whatever reason – for many reasons, I imagine, including not wanting to tell our parents when we got home that we’d gone to a steamy Swedish movie or an X-rated film – the eight or so of us walked over to a third theater and bought tickets to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’m not sure about the rest of the guys, but I really didn’t see the movie. We’d spent the previous night riding the bus from St. Cloud to Winnipeg, and I’d gotten little sleep during the four-hundred mile trip. So as I sat in the darkened theater and the story of Butch and the Sundance Kid played out on the screen, I fell asleep. I do remember seeing the sequence showing Paul Newman’s Butch and Katherine Ross’ Etta Place riding a bicycle as B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” plays on the soundtrack. But that’s about all I recall of those hours in the theater.

(And though I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie here and there over the past forty-one years, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the entire movie at one time. Maybe I should.)

One memory from that choir trip to Winnipeg that’s certainly more vivid than the movie is connected to that long nighttime ride the night before. About ten minutes after we headed northwest out of St. Cloud, someone pulled a radio out a traveling bag, and we cruised through the Minnesota night to the sound of the Top 40. Here’s the Billboard Top 10 from that week:

“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by John Lennon
“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
“Come And Get It” by Badfinger
“Love Or Let Me Be Lonely” by the Friends of Distinction
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Turn Back The Hands Of Time” by Tyrone Davis

Boy, that would be a great hour or so of radio! I imagine we heard all of those during the hours we had the radio playing during that drive. And I imagine we heard tunes from lower in the Top 40 as well, and maybe a few that were lower down in the Billboard Hot 100. There would have been some interesting tunes to choose from once you dropped below No. 40.

One of those tunes was sitting at No. 47. Mark Lindsay – one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders – had reached No. 10 earlier in the year with “Arizona.” And in late April, his “Miss America” was moving up the chart, having jumped seventeen places to No. 47 in the past week. It’s a political plaint posing as a love song, and it peaked at No. 44.

From there, we’ll head down to No. 67, where “Deeper (In Love With You)” had gotten the O’Jays into the Hot 100 for the ninth time since 1963. But the Canton, Ohio, group still hadn’t cracked the Top 40. They wouldn’t this time, either, as “Deeper” would peak at No. 64. It would take another two years for the O’Jays to get into the Top 40; “Back Stabbers” would go to No. 3 in 1972.

The Gentrys had made the Top Ten in 1965, when “Keep On Dancing” had gone to No. 4. A few singles after that had gotten into the Hot 100 (or bubbled under it), but nothing had clicked. In early 1970, the band from Memphis signed with its hometown label. The band’s first Sun single, “Why Should I Cry,” went to No. 61 in the late winter, and in spring, Sun sent the Gentry’s cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” out to play. The record went only to No. 52. But that was still better that Young did. Backed by Crazy Horse, Young released the song as a single during the summer of 1970 and saw the record stall at No. 55.

As I was scanning the Hot 100 from April 25, 1970, this morning, for some reason the title “I Got A Problem” by Jesse Anderson popped out at me, and I’m glad it did. A tale of juggling a wife and at least two lovers, it’s a funky piece of R&B that was sitting at No. 95 that week. It would go no higher, though it went to No. 35 on the R&B chart. Neither the book Top Pop Singles nor All-Music Guide knows much about Anderson. A note left at YouTube not quite a year ago says, “Jesse Anderson is alive and well, living in Wichita, KS. He has recently released Funk N Blues, an album compilation of his songs from the 70’s. He’s working again with Gene Barge on some new material and possible record deal. Good luck to him!” (Anderson’s compilation is available at cd Universe.)

Dipping below No. 100 and into the Bubbling Under section of that April 25, 1970, chart, we find the Canadian group the Original Caste and what appears to be the group’s follow-up to “One Tin Soldier,” which went to No. 34 in February 1970. “Mr. Monday” was sitting at No. 119; a week later it was gone. The same thing happened to two more singles by the band: “Nothing Can Touch Me (Don’t Worry Baby, It’s Alright)” spent one week at No. 114, and “Ain’t That Tellin’ You People” spent a week at No. 117.

Finally, we find Rare Bird’s “Sympathy” sitting at No. 121 in the last of its three weeks Bubbling Under. Rare Bird is listed by AMG as a British prog band, and based on the sound of the single – which I’d describe as naïvely charming – that’s probably accurate. The group would have one more single bubble under – the oddly titled “Birdman – Part 1 (Title No. 1 Again)” would spend one week at No. 122 – and a couple of its albums reached the lower half of the Billboard 200. As the band kept recording and releasing albums into 1975, I’m assuming that Rare Bird was more successful in Britain than in the U.S.