Posts Tagged ‘Music Makers’

‘Shooting Star’

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

I was glancing this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from the second week of 1968, staying in our recent mode of fifty years ago. I was thinking about doing a post about the Bottom Ten from that list, a selection of records that would start with “United (Part 1)” by the Music Makers and end with “Funky Way” by Calvin Arnold.

(Joel Whitburn tells me in Top Pop Singles that the Music Makers evolved into M.F.S.B., which is not a surprise after seeing that the record, which Whitburn notes is an instrumental version of the Intruders’ “(We’ll Be) United,” was written and produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and was released on the Gamble label. As to “Funky Way,” Whitburn has less information, noting only that Arnold was a Detroit-based performer. Neither record did much, with “United (Part 1)” peaking at No. 78 and “Funky Way” getting to No. 72.)

But one of the records in that Bottom Ten diverted my train of thought. I was pretty sure I’d written before about the record at No. 93, “A Little Rain Must Fall” by the Epic Splendor. And, in fact, I had, in a Chart Digging post in late January 2011. Having refreshed my memory about the Epic Splendor, I idly clicked past that post down to the next post, one written a couple days earlier, and I found myself re-reading my tale of some college friends who claimed to have gone into a bar in a rural area west of Minneapolis during the autumn of 1975 and encountered Bob Dylan, who got on stage and sang a few songs with a local performer.

In that post, I pondered what song I’d want to sing with the Bard of Hibbing if I ever got such an unlikely opportunity. I settled on “Shooting Star,” a melancholy memoir from the 1989 album Oh Mercy.

Still looking for a topic for this morning, I checked out my post from January 9, 2008, ten years ago today, a post in which I looked at what the world had been listening to in 1989 and what I was listening to that same year. The two lists were markedly different, which should be no surprise to anyone who knows me or who’s read even a few things here. And one of the tracks listed in my version of 1989 in that post was “Shooting Star.”

Bemused, I wondered how often I’ve mentioned “Shooting Star” in the nearly eleven years I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall here. It turns out to be three times. The third time was in a March 2009 post as I considered which ten tracks I’d play as my first ten if I had a radio show. For what it’s worth, here’s that list:

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult
“Don’t the Moon Look Sad and Lonesome” by Joy of Cooking
“You Don’t Have To Cry” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Bare Trees” by Fleetwood Mac
“Valdez In The Country” by Cold Blood
“Anyday” by Derek & the Dominos
“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen
“Shooting Star” by Bob Dylan
“The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen

So in the course of 2,000-and-some posts, I mention “Shooting Star” three times, and this morning, looking for other stuff, I stumble on two of those mentions. Clearly the universe is at work.

I went to YouTube. As might be expected, Mr. Dylan keeps a tight rein on his music, and only two tracks from Oh Mercy are available there: “Political World” and “Most Of The Time.” There’s no point in my making a video for “Shooting Star” and putting it up; it will be taken down shortly and I’ll get a little note from the website.

So let’s look at covers. The website Second Hand Songs lists four. I only checked out one of them, finding a pleasant take on the tune by the duo of Andy Hill & Renée Safier. It’s from their 2001 album of Dylan covers, It Takes A Lot To Laugh.

Before we listen, though, remember that I called the song a melancholy memoir? Here are the lyrics:

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you
You were trying to break into another world
A world I never knew
I always kind of wondered
If you ever made it through
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me
If I was still the same
If I ever became what you wanted me to be
Did I miss the mark or overstep the line
That only you could see?
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me

Listen to the engine, listen to the bell
As the last fire truck from hell
Goes rolling by
All good people are praying
It’s the last temptation, the last account
The last time you might hear the sermon on the mount
The last radio is playing

Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away
Tomorrow will be
Another day
Guess it’s too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say
Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away

And here are Hill and Safier:

‘Go Where You’ve Got To Go . . .’

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone from Saginaw. My only knowledge – such as it is – of that central Michigan town comes courtesy of Lefty Frizzell, whose “Saginaw, Michigan” spent four weeks on top of the country chart in early 1964.

But not knowing much about the city didn’t stop me from looking this morning at a radio chart from Saginaw’s WKNX, a chart dated January 26, 1968, forty-four years ago today. And I find a few things that I don’t recall running into before.

That includes the No. 1 record in Saginaw for that week, “Love Power” by the Sandpebbles, a kind of Motown/Stax workout with some nifty call and response vocals, some nice horn parts and a killer instrumental/drum break. The record was on the Calla label, and I have no memory of it at all, even though it went to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 14 on the R&B chart.

As the music was playing, I did some digging at the Oldies Loon and looked at a few charts for Twin Cities Top 40 from early 1968. “Love Power” went to No. 25 on WDGY, but WDGY’s signal was weak to nonexistent in St. Cloud; my friends – with me as a bystander – listened to KDWB. The only two early 1968 KDWB surveys at the Oldies Loon are from earlier in January and do not list the Sandpebbles hit at all. Given that those weeks were when “Love Power” was climbing the WDGY rankings, I’m assuming that the record got little or no play on KDWB.

(That turns out not to have been the case, highlighting once again the risk of assuming anything: As chart oracle Yah Shure points out in a note below, “Love Power” went to No. 14 on KDWB’s survey, two weeks after peaking at No. 22 on the WDGY survey. Thanks, as always, Yah Shure.)

But back to Saginaw: It was certainly not uncommon, but I think it was still noteworthy for a record to do so much better in a single market than it did nationwide. And there were a few other such entries on the WKNX survey for that last week of January 1968.

Sitting at No. 14 on the WKNX survey was “United, Part 1” – an instrumental version of the Intruders’ “(We’ll Be) United” – by the studio group called the Music Makers. The single went to No. 78 nationally and is worth noting because the Music Makers evolved into MFSB, who hit No. 1 in 1974 with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia).”

As I write, I’m tempted to guess that the greater success of some records in Saginaw than elsewhere was because Saginaw was at least somewhat a R&B market: The Sandpebbles’ single did better (No. 14, as noted above) on the R&B chart than on the pop chart (No. 22), and the Music Makers’ single went to No. 48 on the R&B chart while reaching No. 78 on the pop chart.

That’s also the case with “Sockin’ 1-2-3-4” by John Roberts, which was a gritty dance workout based on the catch phrase “Sock it to me!” It was at No. 19 in Saginaw during the last week of January 1968; No. 19 is also where it peaked on the R&B chart, while it got only to No. 71 on the pop chart.

Another R&B hit that did better on the WKNX survey than it did on the pop chart nationally was the cover of the movie theme “Born Free” by the Hesitations, a vocal group from Cleveland, Ohio. The record peaked on the pop chart at No. 38, but went to No. 4 on the R&B chart. During the last week of January 1968, the record was at No. 31 on the WKNX chart.

The late Arthur Prysock sang jazz, blues and R&B and did well enough that he placed seven record in the R&B Top 40 and eleven records on or near the Hot 100 (most of them in the Bubbling Under portion). His presence on the late January WKNX survey is kind of an anomaly, as “A Workingman’s Prayer” was a Christmas record; it was sitting at No. 25 on the WKNX survey and it went to No. 74 on the pop chart; it did not make the R&B chart.

But that wasn’t as much of an anomaly to me as the presence of Joe South’s “Birds of  Feather” at No. 26 on the WKNX survey. Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles says that the record was released twice, in 1968 and in 1969. This was the first release, when the single went to No. 106 nationally. (It didn’t do much better in 1969, peaking at No. 96.) I can understand what happened with some of the other records in this brief list, but I have no shred of an idea why South’s record was so popular in Saginaw. Someone, somewhere, must know.

There was one other record on the WKNX survey from January 26, 1968, that ranked far higher than it ever did on the national charts. And it’s no wonder: The Cherry Slush was made up, Whitburn says, of six kids from Saginaw. In 1967, “I Cannot Stop You” was released on the Coconut Grove label; by January of 1968, it had been released on the U.S.A. label. It would spend three weeks bubbling under the Hot 100, peaking at No. 119.

But during the last week of January 1968, “I Cannot Stop You” was No. 6 at WKNX: