Posts Tagged ‘Paul Mauriat’

Three Revisions

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

While Andy the furnace guy tried to restore our heat last week, I was thrust viscerally back to January 1977: As I sat in my study while Andy worked and the temperature hovered somewhere around 55, I kept shifting things so that the space heater just inches away would warm first my left leg and then my right, and that brought on memories of that long-ago January in the house on the North Side of St. Cloud.

It was the place I lived for about eight months after moving away from Kilian Boulevard, and as I’ve noted here before, it had no central heat, relying instead on a large oil-burning stove in the living room and a smaller such heater in the kitchen. (In my bedroom upstairs, I supplemented whatever heat came up through vents in the floor with a space heater my folks had given me, probably as a Christmas gift).

And last week, as I alternately roasted my legs, I remembered spending a Sunday that January lying on the couch in the living room, my left side warm, my right side cold and my spirit desolate as I watched the Minnesota Vikings lose the Super Bowl for the fourth time, falling 32-14 to the Oakland Raiders. So last week’s chill morning with the space heater was kind of a remake from those days thirty-eight years ago. This year’s version was only two days long however, not the full three months of a Minnesota winter, and although my legs were once again chilled, my spirit was not dampened.

But all of that reminded me of January 1977, and the Billboard gods have smiled on me today, as the magazine released a Hot 100 on January 22, 1977, thirty-eight years ago today. Additionally, with the idea of remakes in my head, I found three records in the lower portion of that long-ago chart that fall into that category, more or less.

One of the frequent flyers of the disco era was to take a melody from another time and reset it in a disco arrangement. The 1976 version of “Baby Face” by the Wing and a Prayer Fife & Drum Corps, which went to No. 14, was one example, and there are many others, including the record that caught my ear this morning: “Disco Lucy” by the Wilton Place Street Band, a discofying of the theme to the long-running television show I Love Lucy. Thirty-eight years ago today, the record was at No. 91, heading to a peak of No. 24 (No. 9, Adult Contemporary).

Not far below “Disco Lucy” on that long-ago Hot 100 is an example of another type of remake: A member of a band re-records and releases on his own a song that his or her band recorded some years earlier. Sometimes it succeeds, as it would later in 1977 for Bob Welch, when his solo version of “Sentimental Lady” – originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac when Welch was a member of that group – would go to No. 8. Sometimes such a remake fails, as it would for David LaFlamme, whose remake of “White Bird” was sitting at No. 95 thirty-eight years ago. The record was an inferior (but not “more brief,” as I originally wrote) version of the song originally released as a single in 1969 by LaFlamme’s group It’s A Beautiful Day. That original version Bubbled Under the Hot 100 at No. 118; LaFlamme’s solo version did better, but only marginally, peaking at No. 89.

And then, there was the record that was bubbling under at No. 109 back on January 22, 1977: A disco version of Paul Mauriat’s “Love Is Blue” from Mauriat himself, titled “Love Is Still Blue.” The original “Love Is Blue” was a 1968 treasure, sitting at No. 1 for five weeks (eleven weeks on the AC chart) and ranking at No. 3 for the entire year (behind the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine). Did we need a disco version of such a superb record? Not really. Did Mauriat need the money or the fame? I would think not. And the record tanked: After bubbling under at No. 109 for that one week, the record disappeared, as it deserved to do. Take a listen:

Error regarding the length of the 1977  “White Bird” corrected after first posting.

It Took A Frenchman . . .

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

At the end of 1965, 1966 and again 1967, when Billboard magazine calculated which records had earned places in each of those years’ annual Top 40, there was something missing: An instrumental.

And that was a rarity. Joel Whitburn’s book, A Century of Pop Music, lists the top records of each year from 1900 through 1999 (a Top 30 in 1900 and a Top 40 from then on), and during the sixty-five years from 1900 through 1964, there were only six years when the year’s top records had not included at least one instrumental, and none of those years were consecutive.

But then came those three years in a row: 1965 through 1967. And that stretch without a big instrumental hit actually covered most of 1964, too. In December 1963, a surf rock band from Hollywood called the Marketts got their single “Out of Limits” into the Billboard Hot 100. It moved up the chart and peaked during the first week of February 1964 at No. 3. Its performance made it the No. 37 single for 1964, and it was the last instrumental single to do well enough to make the year-end Top 40 for four years.

So what might have happened in February 1964 that altered the character of the music business here in the United States?  Silly question, right?

Now, I can’t trace a straight line between the success of the Beatles and the two waves of the British Invasion from February 1964 onward to the dearth of instrumentals in the year-end charts, but there was certainly less room in those year-end charts – reflecting less time available on radio stations as well as less attention from retail outlets and record buyers – for American music of all types. What I mean is that I can’t cite causation, but it’s one hell of a correlation.

For example, the Top 40 for 1964 in A Century of Pop Music lists thirteen records by British groups while the Top 40 for 1963 in the same book lists none (although one artist each from Belgium and Japan is listed: The Singing Nun for “Dominique” and Kyu Sakamoto for “Sukiyaki”).

And it’s not like the earlier top-selling instrumentals were all middle-of-the-road stuff that would have been crowded out by newer genres: Yes, “Washington Square” by the Village Stompers, the No. 28 record of 1963, had been folksy and decidedly unedgy, but right behind it, at No. 29, had been the Surfaris’ “Wipe Out.”  I imagine it’s fair to say that most pre-Beatles instrumental hits were decidedly MOR, but some were not. I think of Booker T & the MG’s “Green Onions,” No. 38 for the year of 1962, and of the Tornadoes’ “Telstar,” which was the No. 6 single that year. (And I also think of David Rose’s “The Stripper,” which wasn’t rock or R&B, of course, but certainly shook its stuff someplace other than the middle of the road and wound up as the No. 18 record for the year.)

Whatever the reason, for those three years – 1965, 1966 and 1967 – instrumentals failed to crack the list of the top records of the year. And it took a Frenchman to end the drought, with the first bit of instrumental rain falling during the first week of 1968, when Paul Mauriat’s “Love is Blue” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 99. By the second week of February, the record was at No. 1, and it stayed there for five weeks. By the time 1968 closed its books, “Love is Blue” was the No. 3 record of the year (trailing the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”).

And forty-five years later, it’s still a beautiful record:

Afternote: I should note that four other instrumentals did well enough in the charts in 1968 to make the Billboard Top 40 for the year. “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela went to No. 1 and wound up at No. 13 for the year. Three other instrumentals peaked at No. 2 and made the Top 40 for 1968:  “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles and Co. was No. 19 for the year; “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams wound up at No. 24 for the year; and “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” by the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra ended up at No. 27 for the year.