Posts Tagged ‘Little Johnny Taylor’

Chart Digging: Love Songs

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Day today, so I thought I’d resurrect something I came across while I was posting some archival stuff the other week. It ran here three years ago today:

It being Valentine’s Day today, Blogworld is filled with love songs.

And that’s okay. If there’s one thing that should be celebrated more often, it’s love. And I can’t think of a more appropriate day to do so than today.

But what is there to say that hasn’t been said already, here and in a thousand thousand other places? Well, I think we can say that love – like the songs we write about it – is really about hope, promises, fear, joy, sorrow, yearning, bliss, despair, isolation, companionship, contentment and finally, peace.

I’ve heard it said – heck, I may have said so myself at one time or another, as many times as I’ve taken a climb on this Matterhorn of a topic – that we don’t really choose who we love. We just love, and we recognize the objects of our love when they enter our lives. The choices we make then are: first, whether to acknowledge the love, and second, how to express it. Those choices determine which of the feelings in the above list – hope, promises and so on – will embrace the two lovers.

Sometimes we choose badly. Most of the time, we hope, we don’t. And when one chooses well, when one acknowledges and expresses love in ways that nurture both souls, then the worst things on that list – isolation and despair – can be minimized, if not entirely avoided. What about fear and sorrow? Well, no person who loves another can avoid them. That’s not cynicism talking, that’s – to quote Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield by way of Marvin Gaye – the way love is. Fear and sorrow are the B-Side of hope and joy, and souls who love each other fear the inevitable parting and the resulting sorrow that comes even to those who have loved well and long.

I’d almost presume to say that if we do not grieve at a loved one’s leave-taking, we have not loved.

So, am I some kind of expert on love, to be throwing epigrams and lists of words around this morning? No, I’m just another pilgrim, one who has at times loved less than wisely and now – I believe – has learned to love well. These words are a description of my life, not a prescription for others. The only advice I would have for others on this day when we celebrate love is something someone told me long ago: Embrace love, wherever you find it.

Beyond that, all we need is a song.

One song would do, but I’ll offer a few more than that today. I thought I would dig into a number of Billboard Hot 100 charts for various February 14ths and find records in the lower reaches of those charts with “love” in their titles. We’ll start our digging in 1976 and go back a few years at a time.

The sound of “Love Fire” by Jigsaw – sitting at No. 79 on February 14, 1976 – was familiar to anyone who had heard the band’s No. 2 hit, “Sky High,” the autumn before. This time, however, the band was singing this time about love that was soaring rather than having been blown apart. Still, the twanging and booming introduction didn’t spark another Top Ten hit: “Love Fire” peaked at No. 30.

The Whispers were a Los Angeles soul group that notched twenty-one records in or near the Hot 100 between 1970 and 1990; a few of those made the Top 40, and one – 1987’s “Rock Steady – went to No. 7. (During the same general time period, the Whispers had fifteen records reach the R&B Top Ten, with “Rock Steady” and 1980’s “And The Beat Goes On” both reaching No. 1.) On Valentine’s Day of 1973, “Somebody Loves You” was at No. 94. It would go no higher.

In late 1969, Peggy Lee had reached No. 11 with the idiosyncratic “Is That All There Is,” a single pulled from the well-regarded (at least by All-Music Guide) album of the same name. By the time Valentine’s Day rolled around in 1970, Lee’s version of Randy Newman’s equally idiosyncratic “Love Story” was sitting at No. 105 in the bubbling under section of the Hot 100 chart. It went no higher and has the distinction of being the thirteenth and last of Lee’s singles to be listed in or near the Billboard Hot 100.

The Woolies were a garage rock band from East Lansing, Michigan, and as Valentine’s Day dawned in 1967, their cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” was parked at No. 113 in the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section. Originally released on the Spirit label in 1966, the energetic workout was released on Dunhill in early 1967. The record – the only Hot 100 hit for the Woolies – eventually peaked at No. 95.

Little Johnny Taylor showed up here the other week when I dug into a chart from February 1972, and it’s never too soon for more. In mid-February 1964, Taylor’s “Since I Found A New Love” was sitting at No. 109. It would peak at No. 78. (The video shows the flip side of the Galaxy single and uses what seems to be the longer LP version of the track rather than the single, but so it goes.)

Ernestine Anderson was a jazz singer from Houston, and – like the Woolies – she shows up in the pages of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles just once: As Valentine’s Day 1961 came by, her very nice cover version of “A Lover’s Question” was bubbling under at No. 103. Clyde McPhatter’s original recording of the tune had gone to No. 6 in 1959, and Anderson’s fell far short of that, peaking a little later in 1961 at No. 98.

Chart Digging: Mid-January 1972

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

January of 1972 is mostly a blank spot. I know I’d just started my second quarter at St. Cloud State. I recall two of the classes I took: Music Theory 1 and a one-credit practicum at KVSC, the campus radio station; as a result of the latter, I began to spend a lot of time hanging around the station’s offices. I recall that I wasn’t dating anyone and that I was still palling around with Dave and Chisago Rick and the other guys I met during orientation the summer before.

But nothing much happened, as far as I remember. I was just there. And looking at the Billboard Top Ten from this week in 1972, I get the same kind of sense. Nothing all that interesting was going on.

Well, maybe that’s not fair to Don McLean, whose “American Pie” hit No. 1 that week; it would stay there for four weeks. At the time, McLean’s coded history of rock ’n’ roll was – as I’ve noted before – the fodder for lengthy discussions: What did this line mean? Who was the jester? But after many listenings, many interpretations and forty years, the record has lost its power. I mean, I still sing along when it pops up on the car radio, but the record no longer amazes me the way it did during that long-ago January.

Sitting below McLean’s opus in the Top Ten were some good records, but I don’t see much else that made me say “Wow” back then or would do so today:

“Brand New Key” by Melanie
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards
“Family Affair” by Sly & the Family Stone
“Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the New Seekers
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Hey Girl/I Knew You When” by Donny Osmond
“Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright

I know some folks who loved “Scorpio” (and still do), but I don’t recall hearing it all that much. I guess the best of that bunch for me was “Let’s Stay Together,” which I still like today. The rest of those records didn’t move me much then and still don’t.

That disenchantment (if that’s not too strong a word) was paired with the album rock ethos I discovered early in 1972 at KVSC. The station still played classical music during the daytime, but we shifted to rock in the evenings, and the only person in the studios and office who ever listened to the classical music going on the air was the disc jockey on duty in the main booth. For the rest of us, one or another of the other turntables in the studio was used to play albums that the evening and night-time jocks had brought in from their own collections.

So I wasn’t all that thrilled with what I heard on the radio in the car or when I was hanging around with Dave and Chisago Rick and the others. But as I dig into the lower portions of the Billboard Hot 100 from January 15, 1972, I find a number of records that I think I would have liked to hear coming out of the radio speakers.

Four of the six records below are by R&B acts that I’m rather familiar with today (though that would not have been the case forty years ago). The other two are by acts I’d not heard of until I began digging through that distant Hot 100, one a pop group and the other an R&B singer.

Little Johnny Taylor was a blues singer who passed on in 2002 and who spent much of his performing life not being Johnnie Taylor, the R&B singer who had memorable hits with “Who’s Making Love” and “Disco Lady.”  Little Johnny Taylor’s only Top 40 hit came in 1963, when “Part Time Love” went to No. 19 (and to No. 1 on the R&B chart). In mid-January 1972, the bluesy “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing, Pt. 1” was sitting at its peak of No. 60. It would be the last of seven Johnny Taylor records to reach or bubble under the Hot 100; six of his records reached the R&B Top 40. (The video I’m linking to includes both sides of the 45 – Part 1 and Part 2.)

I’m pretty sure I knew about Junior Walker & The All Stars in early 1972, if for no other reasons than the two No. 4 singles the group scored: “Shotgun” in 1965 and “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969. But I had no clue that “Way Back Home” was in the chart that January. The song can be filed with other tunes that catalog the desire to go back to one’s southern roots; “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South and “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips come quickly to mind although there are many others. As mid-January rolled past, “Way Back Home” was at No. 68. It went only to No. 52 for some reason; it sounds to me as if it should have done much better.

On the other end of the familiarity scale, I found N.F. Porter and his “Keep On Keeping On” sitting at No. 77. I know next to nothing about Porter, just that he was an R&B singer who also recorded as Nolan Porter and just plain Nolan, which meant he had a different billing for all three records he got into the lower portions of the Hot 100 (and into the R&B Top 40) between 1971 and 1973. “Keep On Keeping On” was the second of the three, and No. 77 was as high as it would climb. (The first record, “I Like What You Give,” went to No. 70, and the third, “If I Could Only Be Sure,” peaked at No. 88.) “Keep On . . .” is a good record, but maybe the coolest thing about it is that – like its predecessor – it was released on the Lizard label.

The Detroit Emeralds have shown up in this space twice before when I’ve dug into the charts, and, as I research these posts, I find myself perking up whenever I see the group’s name. This time, “You Want It, You Got It” was the title I saw, and the record didn’t disappoint. It turns out to have been the first of two Top 40 hits for the group, peaking at No. 36 (and at No. 5 on the R&B chart). The only record that did better for the Emeralds – who were actually from Little Rock, Arkansas – was “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms,)” which went to No. 24 (No. 4 R&B) in the spring of 1972.

We’ll take a break from blues and R&B for a moment with a rather odd, almost psychedelic version of the folk song “Five Hundred Miles” as recorded by a group billed as Heaven Bound with Tony Scotti. At the time the single was released, Scotti – according to All-Music Guide – had produced albums for Petula Clark and Joey Heatherton and would go on to produce for Jim Stafford and the Bellamy Brothers. (Three of the members of Heaven Bound – Joan Medora, Eddie Medora and Tommy Oliver – have significant writing credits listed at AMG; I suspect the same would be true for Michael Lloyd if I could find the correct Michael Lloyd.) “Five Hundred Miles” was the second of three singles by Heaven Bound to reach or bubble under the Hot 100, and it peaked at No. 79, the highest any of the three singles went. (When you click on the player, be prepared to think for a few moments that you’re hearing a cover of the Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine.”)

The difficulty of being “the other man” is the topic of the last record in today’s digging: “If I Could See The Light” by the Detroit group 8th Day. While perhaps not as good as the group’s “She’s Not Just Another Woman,” which went to No. 11 in 1971, “If I Could See The Light” rolls along in an infectious up-tempo R&B groove. It was sitting at No. 89 during mid-January 1972, heading toward its peak of No. 79. It’s an energetic – if ethically dubious – way to close today’s digging.