Three Revisions

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.

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One Response to “Three Revisions”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    The LaFlamme remake of “White Bird” can’t hold a candle to the original, but with the latter already long out of print and LaFlamme owing a ton of dough to his former manager, who can blame him for at least getting the song back on the market? Knowing Matthew Katz, he’d have probably sued if it had borne any more of a resemblance to the original.

    LaFlamme’s solo single version (3:33) actually runs a bit longer than the IABD 45 (3:07). The mono 1969 Columbia single and its 1973 otherwise-identical fake stereo reissue sound quite a bit different than their parent album track, aside from the numerous edits. The percussion and bass are mixed much more upfront, and the vocals, decked out in reverb, get pushed back a bit further in the room.

    Wow, that Mauriat redo was a major misfire.

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