Saturday Single No. 446

With the morning melting away – I slept in a little bit and then the Texas Gal and I headed north a couple miles to Sauk Rapids for breakfast – I thought I’d just dip into the collection of Billboard charts and see what those released on May 9 might bring us for a Saturday morning tune.

During the span of years that interests us here, there were four such charts, falling in the years 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1970. We’ll be looking at the records that were at No. 59 (for 5/9), and just for fun, we’ll see what the No. 1 record was for each of those weeks.

We start with 1956, when Billboard was calling its major chart the “Top 100.” Sitting at No. 59 was “Without You” by Eddie Fisher, a romantic and somewhat overproduced (to even my pop-friendly ears) ballad that was making its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 41. Even without having looked yet, I’m pretty sure we’ll find something later in the time line that suits my ears and sensibilities better. The No. 1 record on that day fifty-nine years ago was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley, in the third of eight weeks it would spend in the top spot.

Moving ahead to 1960, we find a little bit of New Orleans in the No. 59 spot of the Hot 100 with Fats Domino’s “Tell Me That You Love Me,” which had jumped thirty-seven spots from its previous slot at No. 96. It would peak at No. 51. This one – a decent N’Awlins loper – is a good candidate, as I do love me some Fats. The No. 1 record on May 9, 1960, was another Elvis single, “Stuck On You,” which spent four weeks at No. 1.

And so we move on to 1964, when the No. 59 record on May 9 was “Three Window Coupe” by the Rip Chords, a Beach Boys sound-alike that was the Chords’ follow-up to their No. 4 hit, “Hey Little Cobra.” The coupe didn’t do nearly as well: The “toughest machine in town” peaked at No. 28. Parked at No. 1 fifty-one years ago today was Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly.” (Armstrong played a concert at St. Cloud State in 1966, which means that “Hello, Dolly” was certainly the first No. 1 hit I ever heard live. How many others have there been? I don’t know, but it seems as if that might be a good topic for a post here.)

As I’ve noted frequently, the year of 1970 ranks pretty highly in my list for life and music both. When May 9 rolled around, the No. 59 record was the two-sided single “California Soul/The Onion Song” by the duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. I’d not heard “The Onion Song” until this morning. It’s got a nice groove and a decent message, but it nevertheless stands on what has to be one of the more odd metaphors in the songbook of Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford. As to “California Soul,” it reminds me of a genial difference of opinion I had with the late Paco Malo: The Gaye/Terrell version was his preference, while I leaned toward Marlena Shaw’s cover of the tune. In Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, the two-sided single is listed with “The Onion Song” first, with a peak of No. 50, while “California Soul” is shown as peaking at No. 56. (Whitburn notes that both tracks were among those on which Simpson sang the female lead because of Terrell’s declining health.) As to the No. 1 slot during that week in 1970, it was occupied for the first of an eventual three weeks by another double-side single: “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who.

Well, I was tempted by the Fats Domino single, and even the Rip Chords record has some attractions, but as soon as I saw the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell single pop up, I knew where I was going. It’s been not quite a year since Paco Malo – the proprietor of the blog Goldcoast Bluenote – left us, and I miss him. So in his memory, here are Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (actually Valerie Simpson) with Paco’s preferred version of “California Soul,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single:


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