On The Nines

Well, it’s September 9, or 9/9, and the part of me that loves Games With Numbers can’t possibly ignore that. So we’re going to look at three near bottom-dwellers in three Billboard Hot 100s released on or near today’s date, each separated by nine years.

We’ll start in my lodestone year of 1970, the one year of my life when I listened, delighted and dutifully, to Top 40 music all year long, and then go back to 1961, when I had no idea that anything as cool at the Hot 100 existed. And we’ll complete our excursion with a look at 1979, a year when the Hot 100’s coolness quotient was – in my life, anyway – rapidly fading.

Along the way, as we customarily do with these follies, we’ll check out each chart’s top two records.

First, to 1970. Sitting at No. 99 in the Hot 100 released on September 12, 1970, is a record regarded by many as a classic and one that I’m sure has left many a listener baffled, perhaps, with its cryptic message and stunned with its beauty: “Alone Again Or” by the psychedelic group Love.

The version we find there – and it went no higher – is one we’ve tangled with a few times before. It’s longer than the single version that was released in 1968 after the album Forever Changes came out in 1967. (Both versions are shorter than the version on the album.) Yah Shure, my friend and patient guide to all things chart-related, wrote to me a few years ago, saying, “In my [Joel] Whitburn Pop Annual, the time listed for the 1970 re-do is 2:50. Under the ’68 single’s entry in my Whitburn Bubbling Under chart book, Joel refers to the 1970 #99 release as ‘an enhanced version,’ and that’s what it really is: embellished with additional instrumentation to pack more of a wallop over the airwaves. The difference between it and the original mix is quite apparent.”

Here is a version of the tune that has been labeled “mono single remix” with a seemingly appropriate running time. At discogs, the 1967 original release is said to have a running time of 2:49, while the 1970 rerelease – as Yah Shure noted – runs 2:50. (The 1967 album track runs 3:15.) Is this the right one? I dunno.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2 during the second week of September 1970 were, respectively, “War” by Edwin Starr and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross.

Hoping to leave bafflement behind, we head to 1961 and the Hot 100 that was released on September 11 of that year, There, parked at No. 99, we find “Signed, Sealed And Delivered” by Rusty Draper, a countryish waltz that has utterly nothing to do with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” from 1970.

Draper was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Kirksville, Missouri (a burg where I’d often stop for a burger or gas during the 1980s as I made my way between Columbia, Missouri, and Monticello or St. Cloud in Minnesota). He had one country hit – “Gambler’s Guitar” went to No. 6 in 1953 – and eleven records that reached the Hot 100 (with another bubbling under). Best-performing of the bunch was “The Shifting, Whispering Sands,” which went to No. 3 in 1955.

The maudlin “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” went to No. 91 and was his next to last entry on the chart.

The records at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the second week of September 1961 were “Michael” by the Highwaymen and “Take Good Care Of My Baby” by Bobby Vee.

And now to 1979, and the No. 99 record from the chart released on September 15 of that year: “Baby I Want You,” a piece of light R&B that was the only chart entry from the Funky Communication Committee, a short-lived group that managed to release two albums and three singles in 1979 and 1980.

“Baby I Want You” climbed the chart to No. 47 and did not get into the R&B Top 40. And that’s all I know.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the third week of September 1979, were “My Sharona” by the Knack and “After The Love Has Gone” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

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