Posts Tagged ‘Carole King’

‘If You Read The Papers . . .’

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

One of the new arrivals on the CD shelves here is a minimalist box set collecting five of Carole King’s first six albums, a set I wandered upon by accident as I browsed at Amazon. The set includes Writer (1970), Music (1971), Rhymes & Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and Wrap Around Joy (1974). It skips, as you can see, 1971’s Tapestry, perhaps because Epic figured anyone interested in King’s work already had it, or perhaps the label thought they might spur sales of that masterpiece by leaving it out of the box set.

It’s pretty basic: A slipcase and the five CDs in reproductions of the five original jackets (sans any gatefolds). But the music is all there, and I have a good magnifying glass for the fine print on the back. (Not all the jacket backs listed the session musicians, but I have some online sources for that info.)

Anyway, as I was ripping and tagging the CDs this week, something about the set kept nagging me. I’d read something about it a while back, and this morning, as I was sorting through posts here about King, I remembered: Back in the spring of 2011, when I added King’s “It’s Too Late” to my list of Jukebox Regrets – the brief list of records that should have been in my Ultimate Jukebox project of 2010 but were somehow missed – reader and friend Yah Shure mentioned the box set:

I recently obtained the collection of Carole’s first five albums (sans Tapestry) and had one “Oh, I remember this!” moment after another. Carole seems to be one of those artists who we take for granted, hovering below our everyday radar until the next refresher course beckons. One of her deeper cuts I’ve always liked is “Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone,” from Rhymes & Reasons.

“Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone” is a good track, one I’d not heard before this week. Having listened, I looked again at the comments on that ten-year-old post and found my pal jb’s pithy (and accurate) assertion that the piano figure that opens “It’s Too Late” is “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.” And I looked once more at the comments and found one by the regular reader who calls himself porky:

Like jb, the Tapestry singles instantly capture that era when I hear them . . . But give “Believe In Humanity” a spin, and it also captures that eerie early-to-mid ’70’s sense of doom that hovered over lots of records back then. Hearing them in the dark via a transistor radio only added to those vibes.

With the track now at hand, I followed porky’s advice, and he’s absolutely right: Despite the hopeful couplet at the end of each verse and despite the coda, that sense of doom in the two verses prevails (and could easily be applied to this era’s arc as well). The track – which went to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of 1973 – is at the bottom of the post. Here are the lyrics:

If you read the papers you may see
History in the making
You’ll read what they say life is all about
They say it’s there for the taking
Yeah, but you should really check it out
If you want to know what’s shaking
But don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

I know it’s often true – sad to say
We have been unkind to one another
Tell me how many times has the golden rule
Been applied by man to his brother
I believe if I really looked at what’s going on
I would lose faith I never could recover
So don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

Maybe I’m living with my head in the sand
I just want to see people giving
I want to believe in my fellow man
Yes, I want to believe

Saturday Single No. 732

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

The other week, writing about B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” I said:

It’s an interesting record, in that it’s got more piano in it than I tend to expect of a King record, but a quick look at the credits at both AllMusic and discogs tells me that Carole King was around for the album sessions. I wish I had track-by-track information, but I don’t.

Well, I do now. Shortly after I wrote about the track, I was noodling around Amazon in search of Rhiannon Giddens’ forthcoming album (it arrived yesterday, and so far, I’m pleased), and I noticed we had some bonus points or something from the site. So I added to my order King’s 1970 album Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

As I suspected, the session notes I found at the two websites mentioned above were incomplete. And I’m a bit chagrined, because with a little more effort on that Saturday a few weeks ago, I might have recognized that the piano part on that particular track was supplied by Leon Russell. I was listening for Carole King, however, and the idea slipped past me.

Carole King does play on four of the album’s nine tracks, while Russell plays on three, including on his own composition “Hummingbird.” On that one, the background vocals are provided by four women whose names have popped up many times on this blog: Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Mary Clayton.

Eight of the nine tracks on the album were recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and on those, Russ Kunkel handles the drums and Bryan Garofalo provides bass. Guitarist Joe Walsh shows up for a couple of tracks.

(The ninth track was laid down at the Hit Factory in New York. Players there were Hugh McCrackin on rhythm guitar, Paul Harris on piano, Gerald Jemmott on bass and Herb Lovelle on drums.)

The CD fills nicely a gap on the shelves, as the only other B.B. King CDs I have are an a career-spanning anthology and three other CDs with King performing with others: Blues Summit and Deuces Wild feature King with a wide range of other performers (from Ruth Brown to Robert Cray on the first and from Van Morrison to Marty Stuart on the second), and Riding With The King is an album recorded with Eric Clapton.

(If I want more B.B. King, I can turn to the LP shelves, where there are eleven of his albums, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s.)

And here’s another track from Indianola Mississippi Seeds, this one with Carole King playing piano and electric piano: “Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore.” The track starts with an informal jam over strings and horns, then moves into the song itself. And in the latter portions of the track, Carole King gets a chance to show off her chops on the electric piano. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 615

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

It’s quiet and cool this morning in our little corner of the world.

The quiet, it turns out, is a near-constant thing. The four-plex that contains our condo – one of nine such buildings in the development – is tucked back on what is in effect an alley, so we have very little traffic noise, in fact very little noise at all. During the warm season just past, the occasional sound of the lawn service taking care of things made its way inside, especially when the fellow with the leaf blower worked on the patio just on the other side of the window where I write and putter.

And on occasion in the evening, Larry down the way shoots off some fireworks. That can be startling, but it’s not really a problem. Nor is the occasional noise we hear from the kids across the alley when they play on their trampoline.

As far as I recall, other than deliveries and friends, our doorbell has rung only three times: two sets of school-age kids came by raising money, one seeking donors for a walk-a-thon and the other selling chocolate bars. We invested in both.

And we had one politician stop by, seeking re-election. I shook his hand and told him politely that there was little he could say that would earn my vote. We chatted for about ten minutes about why that was, and he went on his way. (About a month later, he ceased campaigning because of some unseemliness in his past; it was way too late for his party to nominate a different candidate, so it will be interesting to watch the returns next Tuesday.)

Anyway, it’s quiet in this little corner of the north side, something that we hoped would be the case when we moved here eight months ago. We’d become accustomed to the quiet at the house, when living on more than an acre kept us isolated for the most part from the rest of the city around us. So we’ve been pleased.

And as I make my way through tracks with the word “quiet” in their titles, I’m caught – as I am other times – by Carole King’s effort from her 1973 album Fantasy: “A Quiet Place To Live.” The brief song has some political and social overtones that don’t fit our specific living place but might fit into today’s world. And it’s worth recalling that things don’t always have to mesh perfectly to work well:

All I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can enjoy the fruits of my labor
Read the paper
And not have to cry out loud

In my mind I can see it crystal clear
Sharing my dreams with the people around me
Now they surround me
And I’m just a part of the crowd

What will become of us
What about the children
What will they do to us next time around
What will the answer be
What will it mean to me
When are they gonna see we’re underground
Here underground

And all I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can be free in a world of my making
Instead of taking
What they decided to give
I wouldn’t want what they have, no
If I could only find
A quiet place to live

So we’ll make Carole King’s “A Quiet Place To Live” today’s Saturday Single.

Album Chart Digging, March 1972

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Just for fun, I thought I’d look at the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from this week in 1972, during a time when I was spending many of my free hours at St. Cloud State on the couches in the lounge at KVSC, the college FM radio station.

The station was still offering a rigid format of classical music during the day, shifting to an album rock/progressive rock format at 6 or 7 p.m., but during the day, staffers would take over the turntable in the vacant Studio B, where they’d cue up records from the rock library – or their own LPs – and pipe the sound into the lounge.

I didn’t hear all of the following ten albums forty-six years ago in the KVSC lounge, but I heard some:

Harvest by Neil Young
America by America
American Pie by Don McLean
Fragile by Yes
Nilsson Schmilsson by Nilsson
Paul Simon by Paul Simon
Baby I’m A-Want You by Bread
Music by Carole King
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Hot Rocks 1964-1971 by the Rolling Stones

That’s a pretty decent helping of music, although I’ve never cared much for the Nilsson album except for “Without You.” But only four of those albums, from what I remember, found their ways to our turntables for lounge listening or for airplay: American Pie, Harvest, Fragile, and The Concert For Bangla Desh.

I imagine we aired tunes included on the Stones’ anthology, too, but I don’t specifically recall hearing them. And the listing of American Pie should likely have an asterisk next to it; I remember a staffer bringing the album in one day so we could hear the full-length version of the title track. I know we were interested in the tune’s coded history of rock ’n’ roll, but we needed to be cool about it because McLean was on the pop charts. Of course, so was Neil Young, whose “Heart Of Gold” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during this week in 1972, but that was somehow different.

As for me, I’d actually been enjoying The Concert For Bangla Desh for a couple of months when this Billboard chart came out, and most of the other albums on that list eventually landed on my shelves, though it took years, in some cases. The albums that didn’t make it to my vinyl stacks? Those by America and Bread. (Although they are currently on the digital shelves while the Nilsson album is not.)

Anyway, for purists and moral slackers alike, there was good stuff to find on the album chart forty-six years ago this week. If I were to pull one track from that week, well, I’ve raved enough here over the years about Leon Russell’s performance at The Concert For Bangladesh, and “Crossroads” from the McLean album has showed up a couple of times. So we’ll listen today to a track that I considered when I was compiling one-by-one a short list of tunes that should have been included in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox: “It’s Going To Take Some Time” from Carole King’s her 1971 album Music.


Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

I reached a milestone this week, one that testifies to how nomadic my life has been: I have now lived in our house here along Lincoln Avenue longer than I have lived anywhere else during my adult life.

The Texas Gal and I have been here now for seven years, four months and five days. My previous longest adult residence was seven years and four months on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis, a tenure that ended when the neighborhood was gentrifying and the corporation that owned the building wanted to get in on the action. Had that lease not been terminated, I think I would have happily stayed on Pleasant Avenue for many more years. And I might never have met the Texas Gal.

I won’t bore you with the list of the twenty places where I’ve lived over the years. (I mined that vein at least a little for a post when I was playing with Google Earth more than five years ago.) By my count this morning, there are twenty places on that list, starting with the ill-kept and poorly heated house on St. Cloud’s North Side where I went when I left Kilian Boulevard and ending here on the East Side just six blocks from where I grew up.

Will there eventually be a twenty-first place on that list? Most likely. The Texas Gal and I are finding that keeping the house in order is gradually becoming more and more of a challenge. So is living on three levels. One small example: Doing the laundry on Mondays requires numerous trips between the main floor and the basement and at least two trips to and from the loft. Can I do that? Yes, but not as swiftly as I could seven years ago. Will I be able to do it as easily seven or even three years from now? Almost certainly not. Life would be easier and simpler on one level and in a smaller place. We’ve been talking about those things for a while but have made no decisions yet about when or where.

But the topics of where and when will likely be on the agenda as we make our way through this winter and move on into the spring. Whatever we decide, though, I do know one thing: Wherever the Texas Gal is, there is my home.

There are more than a thousand tracks in the digital files with “home” in their titles. Sifting through them this morning, I find many that don’t quite fit what I’m writing about. Some come close in one way or another. Here’s one of those, one that cut deeply into me during the years before I found my Texas Gal. It’s “Home Again” from Carole King’s 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry.

Summer Songs, Part Two

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

We’ll pick up today with summer songs, continuing from last week’s post that looked at the years 1968-70 as well as at 1972’s “Where Is the Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, the tune that sparked the idea.

So what about 1971? Well, that one’s easy. I spent most days that summer mowing lawns and cleaning floors at St. Cloud State and most evenings hanging around with Rick with a radio playing. And despite the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and “Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose and a few other records, it was the summer of “It’s Too Late” by Carole King. As I wrote in a post a couple of years ago: “There are few sounds that pull me back in time as potently as the piano figure that opens ‘It’s Too Late’.” And as friend and commenter jb said in response to that post, that piano figure is “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.”

Having taken care of 1972 in last week’s post, we move on to 1973. Several records bring back specific moments from that summer when I prepared to leave home for the first time: Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” Dr. John’s “Right Place Wrong Time,” Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles” and a pair of records by ex-Beatles, Paul McCartney’s “My Love” and George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth).” But Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” was just as present during that season. And it earns its place as the summer record of 1973 for that omnipresence and for one specific moment. Three years ago, I wrote:

Sometime during late July or early August of that summer, many of us who would spend the next school year in Denmark through St. Cloud State got together for a picnic at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. At one point during that evening, I was standing at the base of Minnehaha Falls – the waterfall that gives the large park its name – talking for the first time with a young woman who would turn out to be a very important part of my next nine months. Some distance away, another group of picnickers had a music source of some kind, and in that moment, those distant picnickers were listening to “Smoke On The Water.” Ever since, that opening riff puts me back at the base of Minnehaha Falls during the first tentative moments of a friendship that for a while became something else.

The first month of the odd summer of 1974 found me at home recovering from a still-unexplained illness, and for the rest of the summer I worked part-time at the St. Cloud State library. I also hung around with Rick and with folks from The Table in the student union as I tried to figure out how to fit my memories of my nine months away into the life I was resuming in St. Cloud. The music around me, as I look back almost forty years, seems as unsettled as I was that summer. There were some big hits and some good records: “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot, “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation, “Please Come To Boston” by Dave Loggins. But none of those sum up the summer, a season that seems to have been filled not only with relief that I was whole but with dissonance and odd angles and strange transitions. And the record from that summer that still feels both ways all these years later is Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

A year later, I felt like me again, going to school, working with folks I liked, spending time with friends from The Table and from elsewhere, playing some tennis and on one memorable evening, being hypnotized with several other patrons on the small stage of the Press Bar downtown. Music was all around me, from the jukebox in Atwood Center and from radios in many places, including my room, my car and the apartments and rooms of the several young women I dated that summer. I recall “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille, “The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony, “I’m Not In Love” by 10 c.c. and several more. But there are two countryish records that pull me back more potently to the summer of 1975, and they both play in memory from the boothside jukebox at the Country Kitchen: “Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphey and “I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter. Same companion across the booth?  Yes. Same night? I think so.

That’s a nice place to stop for today. I had no plans to make this a three-part series, but that’s where it’s gone. We’ll pick up the last couple of college years and whatever other summers stick with me sometime in the next week.

Edited slightly.

‘Still I’m Glad For What We Had . . .’

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Last week, the Texas Gal and I watched the contestants on American Idol make their ways through the songs of Carole King. And as the evening moved on, I was reminded once again of the depth of King’s catalog.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise; one can’t dive too deeply into the history of pop music in the U.S. without running into the tunes that King has written, many of them with Gerry Goffin during the Brill Building era. That long list includes “Chains” by the Cookies (covered memorably by the Beatles), “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, “Up On The Roof” by the Drifters, “Goin’ Back” by the Byrds, “Every Breath I Take” by Gene Pitney and on and on. I looked at the list of recordings of her songs at All-Music Guide and after the first nine pages, I was only up to the letter “G”. It’s an astounding body of work.

As I watched American Idol, I wondered vaguely if any of the Goffin-King songs had been included among the 228 records that I discussed here during the Ultimate Jukebox project. Well, I know that the Gene Pitney record was there, but other than that, nothing obvious stands out. I’m not certain, given the depth of the Goffin-King catalog. But what came to me as I thought about that was the realization that not a single recording by Carole King herself was included in the project.

That startled me, given that the Ultimate Jukebox was as much an exploration of memory as a dissection of musical value. And when memory takes me back to my first year of college – 1971-72 – one of the primary sounds on my internal soundtrack is Carole King’s Tapestry. It seemed like any time I visited a lady friend in any of the women’s dorms that year, I heard Tapestry coming from behind door after door as I walked down the hallways. It might have been “Beautiful” or “I Feel The Earth Move” or any of the other tracks on the album, but Tapestry provided the backing track for a good chunk of that time of my life.

And King’s absence from the UJ made me stop and wonder if that was an error. It probably was. As with other explorations of my Jukebox Regrets, I’m not going to figure out which record of those 228 I’d pull out to make room for Carole King. But I do have to acknowledge that she should have had one in there.

So, which track? Given the strength of memory associated with the album, the tune will likely come from Tapestry. After that, King’s albums were inconsistent. There were a few strong tracks, but King never came close to matching that 1971 classic. Well, how could she? Tapestry was in the Billboard Top 40 for sixty-eight weeks and was No. 1 for fifteen of those weeks. Two double-sided singles hit the Top Twenty, with “It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” spending five weeks at No. 1. So she couldn’t match Tapestry with her succeeding albums? If there’s a list of those who could, it’s a very short list.

(It should also be noted that sales and popularity are not the only criteria by which Tapestry was nearly unmatchable: King won four Grammy awards in 1972, including album of the year, record of the year [“It’s Too Late”] and song of the year [“You’ve Got A Friend”]. Note added August 14, 2013.)

Still, those later albums had some gems. Music, her 1971 follow-up to Tapestry, included the sweet regrets of “It’s Going To Take Some Time” as an album track. (It was covered nicely in 1972 by the Carpenters.) “Been to Canaan” was a No. 24 hit from 1972’s Rhymes & Reasons. I also like “Jazzman” from 1974’s Wrap Around Joy. It went to No. 2 and featured a sax solo by Tom Scott. And finally, I’d take a hard look at King’s own version of “One Fine Day” from her 1980 album, Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King. In 1963, the Chiffons took the song to No. 5 hit. King’s version went to No 12.

In the end, though, it’s impossible to resist the sirens’ sounds of Tapestry. But which track? “Smackwater Jack” and “You’ve Got A Friend” are easy to dismiss, the first because I’m not all that fond of it and the second because James Taylor did the definitive version. “Tapestry” drops out of the running because the story sometimes feels forced, and “So Far Away” gets trimmed because it reminds me of a place and time I’d rather not ponder too often.

That leaves eight tracks, and sorting through them, I come to the conclusion I thought was likely when I began writing this piece: There are few sounds that pull me back in time as potently as the piano figure that opens “It’s Too Late.” And its tale is universal; rare would be the person who hasn’t been on one end or the other of its sorrowful monologue. Given all that, it should have been among the tunes in the Ultimate Jukebox.

Chart Digging: December 9, 1972

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

As we sit in early December, the tale is well known among football fans:

The Minnesota Vikings, a good bet for the Super Bowl going into the season, have disappointed their fans with less than stellar play. Despite the return of a veteran quarterback bound for the Hall of Fame, the team has floundered. And fans are left wondering what the hell happened.

Football fans among my readers will recognize the scenario above. It sounds like this year, right? Yeah, but it’s actually about 1972. The quarterback in question was Fran Tarkenton, who returned to Minnesota via a trade with the New York Giants. Tarkenton was seen as the crucial piece for a team that had been defensively dominant but offensively challenged the previous two seasons. Certainly a team that had gone 23-5 during the past two seasons without a top quarterback would achieve greatness with a quarterback as gifted as Tarkenton under center.

Well, sometimes the ball bounces funny ways. The Vikings lost four of their first six games in 1972 – twice by three points, twice by two points – and couldn’t recover. They gave it a good shot, though. By this date  – December 9 – in 1972, the Vikes had won four out of five games and were 7-5 with two games remaining: One against Green Bay and one in San Francisco. If they won those two games, they’d win their fifth straight division title and head to the playoffs.

I’m tempted to say that I knew thirty-eight years ago today – it was a Saturday – that the Vikings would lose those final two games. But I was nineteen and blissfully unaware of the disappointments to come, both then and for the next thirty-eight years. So I had no doubts that the Vikings would take care of the Packers the next day and then defeat the 49ers. And on Sunday, a college friend and I headed to campus and joined a rowdy bunch in one of the dorms’ television rooms, where a newfangled thing called cable TV brought in the broadcast of one of the stations in Duluth. (The Twin Cities market was, as was the norm in those days, blacked out during Vikings home games.)

The rowdiness went away quickly that Sunday afternoon. And my pal Gary and I and a bunch of guys I never knew watched mostly in silence as the Packers of quarterback Scott Hunter and the marvelously named running back MacArthur Lane took down the Vikings 23-10 and quashed that season’s hope. (I wonder if the Packer fans among my readers recall that game.) On the following Saturday, I watched the Vikings blow a late lead and lose 20-17 to San Francisco and finish the season at 7-7.

But all that was ahead on December 9, 1972, the Saturday before the Green Bay game. There was hope. And, no doubt, there was music at one point in the day or another. If I turned on the radio at some time during that Saturday – and I probably did – I most likely heard something from the Billboard Top Ten released that day:

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Ventura Highway” by America
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics

Boy, there’s some good stuff in there, but there’s also some stuff that, well, overstayed its welcome in my ears after very few listens. I can live without ever hearing “Clair” again, and I was never fond of the Albert Hammond single, either. And I’m of two minds about “I Am Woman.” Its anthemic quality and its obvious popularity make it an aural landmark, one of those time-and-place tunes that can – when I am reminded of it – toss me back into the fall of 1972 when the only places I felt sure about what I was doing were my music theory classes and the college radio station, where I dabbled in sports reporting.

On the other hand, when I hear “I Am Woman” rather than just think about it – and I do hear it on occasion, as it is in the RealPlayer and shows up every couple thousand hours or so – I note immediately that the record’s deficiencies, chiefly its clunky earnestness, have not helped it age well.

Anyway, take “I Am Woman,” “Clair” and the Albert Hammond tune out of that bunch, and you’ve got a decent half-hour of listening with a few stellar moments from the Temptations, Harold Melvin and his guys and the Stylistics.

And there were – as there almost always are – interesting things a little lower in the Hot 100. Carole King’s “Been to Canaan” was sitting at No. 40. The record, King’s seventh Top 40 hit, would peak at No. 24, spending the first two weeks of 1973 at that spot. (“Been to Canaan” would top the Adult Contemporary chart for one week.) King would have six more Top 40 hits, with the last coming in 1980.

Two spots further down, J. J. Cale’s “Lies” was in its second week at No. 42 and would go no higher. Cale’s only Top 40 hit was 1972’s “Crazy Mama,” which went to No. 22.  According to All-Music Guide, Cale had two other records reach the Hot 100: “After Midnight” went to No. 42 in 1972, and “Hey Baby” got to No. 96 in 1976.

Blue Haze, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, was a group of studio musicians assembled in England by producers Johnny Arthey and Phil Swern. The group’s reggae version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” – the pop standard written by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach – was sitting at No. 54 thirty-eight years ago today, on its way to No. 27 on the pop chart and to No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. This was the second time a version of the song made the Top 40: The Platters’ version sat at No. 1 for three weeks in 1959. As for Blue Haze, AMG lists several other songs the group recorded, among them the standards “Unchained Melody” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Those might be interesting listening.

Dropping a little further down into the Hot 100, we find Tower of Power. “Down to the Nightclub” was sitting at No. 66 on December 9, 1972, but would go no higher. Earlier in the year, “You’re Still A Young Man” had reached No. 29. Two more Top 40 singles would follow: “So Very Hard To Go” would go to No. 17 in 1973, and “Don’t Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)” would reach No. 26 in 1974. A few other releases over the years would hit the Hot 100, and ToP had – by AMG’s count – thirteen singles on the R&B chart in the 1970s. I can’t find a video of the studio version of “Down to the Nightclub,” but I did find a good recording of a 1986 performance at the Maintenance Shop at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

I don’t recall the group Brighter Side of Darkness at all, nor do I remember the group’s one hit, “Love Jones.” But listening to it this morning, it sounds exactly like 1972. Thirty-eight years ago today, the record was sitting at No. 80, on its way to No. 16. According to AMG, the group was made up mostly of high school students from Chicago, and lead singer Daryl Lamont was only twelve years old. (The video here presents, I think, the album version of the tune. The single ran about 3:20, from what I can tell.) The record was the group’s only hit, but when you come up with something as good as this, once is good enough.

Valerie Simpson is far better known as part of Ashford & Simpson, the stellar song-writing team she formed with Nickolas Ashford. (The duo then began recording and performing in 1973 and married in 1974, reaching the Top 40 twice – in 1979 and 1985 – and the R&B and dance charts many times.) In 1971, Simpson released the album Exposed and followed that a year later with a self-titled album. “Silly Wasn’t I” came from the latter album and was sitting at No. 96 on December 9, 1972. It would peak at No. 63 on the Hot 100 and at No. 24 on the R&B chart.