Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Week's Review -- October 23, 1971

Remember the old Schoolhouse Rock song "Three is a Magic Number"? It applies here; Of the ten new songs that first appeared on Billboard's Hot 100 this week, only three made it into the Top 40. All three were Top 10 hits, and all peaked at...Number 3!

Bread - "Baby, I'm-a Want You" Bread - Baby I'm a Want You - Baby I'm-a Want You

Bread is one of those those 1970s acts that fans either enjoy or loathe. Despite their well-crafted studio work, their top-notch musicianship and solid pop- and country-influenced writing, there are a lot of people who see the group as a product of the huge "middle of the road" sound truck (with Chicago, The Carpenters and others taking turns driving) that rolled over a lot of late 1960s groups that were experimental and progressive. Their penchant for soft, heart-felt love tunes didn't really endear the band to music fans who were more enamored of blues-based rockers.

This tune, which reached #3, is familiar as one of Bread's best-known hits. While many make fun of the title and its poor grammar, it's managed to find a niche on oldies radio, adult contemporary and also as a staple of "elevator music." It's inoffensive and blends well into the background, which is probably the way it was intended to be. That's probably why it's called "middle of the road."

Jimi Hendrix - "Dolly Dagger" Jimi Hendrix - First Rays of the New Rising Sun - Dolly Dagger

Jimi Hendrix was considered to be a musical genius. His death on September 18, 1970 may have stopped him from creating any new songs but it didn't end his career. Though he only issued a few LPs during his lifetime, he had recorded a lot of stuff that hadn't made it onto those albums and much of it was placed onto a series of posthumous records. The second, called Rainbow Bridge, appeared in 1971. Among the standout tunes was "Dolly Dagger," which was released as a single but only reached #74. That said, many fans don't place a great deal of importance on peak hits of chart singles and in Hendrix's case they're right: despite all his influence and his legend, he only charted one Top 40 hit ("All Along the Watchtower" in 1968).

"Dolly Dagger" is a lot more accessible than much of Hendrix's late-period (that is, after the breakup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience). It has a great guitar line and less of the bluesy groove and experimentation that is found in much of Hendrix's later work.

The Bee Gees - "Don't Want to Live Inside Myself" Bee Gees - Trafalgar - Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself

Today, fans know that The Bee Gees were the most successful act of the 1970s. With nine #1 singles, multiplatinum success and their picture on the top-selling LP of the 1970s, it's easy to forget that most of that success began with 1975's Main Course LP and the single "Jive Talkin'." From 1970-'74, the brothers Gibb were still trying to repeat the success of the late 1960s.

When their Trafalgar LP came out in 1971, they were still trying to find a sound that would lead to better sales. The first single was "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" and became the group's first #1 hit. However, beginning with the Robin Gibb-sung "Don't Want to Live Inside Myself," they would wait another four years and a move to Miami before their next Top 10 record and the burgeoning disco movement, which helped propel their phenomenal success for the rest of the 1970s.

Traffic - "Gimme Some Lovin' Part 1" Traffic - Welcome to the Canteen (Live) - Gimme Some Lovin'

Traffic was between contracts. After success with John Barleycorn Must Die, they had recorded The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys and were convinced it was a hit. However, their old contract (which paid them less) was still in effect for one more LP. Rather than letting their new LP be burdened by an old arrangement, the group toured and recorded songs for a live LP to fill out their contractual obligation. That LP was Welcome to the Canteen, which is considered a Traffic album even though the cover lists the individual band members instead.

The LP closed with a 9-minute rendition of "Gimme Some Lovin'," a song Traffic vocalist Steve Winwood had popularized during the 1960s as a member of The Spencer Davis Group. For the 45, the song was cut into two parts. Considering the fact that Traffic was making their "live" record to get out of a contract, the sound quality is lacking -- the vocals are nearly drowned out by instruments -- but the music is exceptional.

The Chi-Lites - "Have You Seen Her" The Chi-Lites - Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966-1975 - Have You Seen Her

Though "Oh Girl" was the group's only #1 pop hit, "Have You Seen Her" may have been their best tune. Both songs are excellent, but in my mind, "Have You Seen Her" gets an edge because of its story. With doo-wop vocals behind him, the song's narrator tells about how he spends days sitting around and keeping himself occupied after his love walked out on him. Painting a picture of sitting on a park bench telling jokes to neighborhood kids, he's really convincing himself that his lady is coming back to him and he simply needs to wait for her return. Rather than resorting to the gut-wrenching, big-throated vocals often employed by R&B singers who are dealing with lost love and broken hearts, singer Eugene Record employs a matter-of fact, low-key delivery but the sadness is still there. It's one of those songs that doesn't grow old even after almost 40 years.

Glen Campbell & Anne Murray - "I Say a Little Prayer/By the Time I Get to Phoenix" Anne Murray & Glen Campbell - Anne Murray-Glen Campbell - Medley: I Say a Little Prayer / By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Glen Campbell and Anne Murray were both artists who successfully crossed over between country and pop. Doing an LP together, they recordd a duet medley of the Bacharach-David tune "I Say a Little Prayer" (made popular by Dionne Warwick) and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (which Campbell himself enjoyed as a smash hit). However, the medley was blended: Murray sang "I Say a Little Prayer" while Campbell's handled his lines from "Phoenix" at the same time. Not a big hit (#81, though it did reach #40 on the country chart) but an interesting concept.

Rose-Colored Glass - "If it's Alright With You" (Not Available as MP3)

Rose-Colored Glass was a group produced by the man who popularized the comic "break-in" record, Dickie Goodman. However, they were a serious group. I've never heard "If it's Alright With You" so I'll move on to the next song...which most everybody who would be interested in 1970s music has heard at least once.

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - "Imagine" John Lennon - Imagine (Remastered) - Imagine

A lot has been written about "Imagine." I can't say anything here that can add to what's already out there, and to call it a classic tune would be an understatement. It was certainly Lennon's best-known solo record, one that was equal to anything he wrote for The Beatles. Despite lyrics that are often considered simplistic and utopian, the song (accented by its simple piano line) is optimistic and forward-looking. Coming at a time where the Vietnam War was winding down and the dissent and violence that marked the late 1960s was running its course, the suggestion to imagine a better place for the future was refreshing.

James Brown - "My Part/Make it Funky (Part 3)" James Brown - The Singles, Vol. 7: 1970-1972 - My Part/Make It Funky, Pt. 3

James Brown was the most prolific singles artist of the 1970s. With 38 songs making the Hot 100, he had more than any other act (Chicago, the act in second place, had only 27). What's even more amazing is that the vast majority of those songs hit during the first half of the decade. Had Brown's career on the pop charts not declined after 1975, there's no telling how many hits the man could have had. Despite the large number of Hot 100 hits, Brown's name isn't often mentioned among the top hitmakers of the 1970s because only 19 of those songs made the Top 40 and none reached the Top 10. However, as an influence, his legend is undisputed.

"My Part/Make it Funky (Part 3)" was one of nine Hot 100 singles the Godfather of Soul charted in 1971. It's undeniably James Brown, with the signature sound, Brown's vocal interaction with the music, Fred Wesley's horns and Bobby Byrd interjecting. There's even a tip of Brown's hat to B.B. King, which is a great compliment indeed.

Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - You've Lost That Loving Feeling

"You've Lost That Loving Feeling" was no stranger to the charts (it had been a #1 hit for The Righteous Brothers in 1965). For Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, however, fans were just getting to know them. As "Loving Feeling" was spending its short six-week stay on the Hot 100, Flack was a relative unknown and Hathaway was best known for an earlier hit called "The Ghetto." As a low-key version of a well-known song, the duo didn't pick up a lot of fans with this single, but that was about to change.

The duo's follow-up "Where is the Love" was a major hit in 1972 and Flack ran off a series of successful singles after that. Hathaway's chart fortunes were different; he wasn't racking up the hits on his own and was fighting a personal battle with depression. After scoring again with another big duet in 1978 called "The Closer I Get to You" Hathaway lost his battle in 1979 when he hell from his hotel apartment in New York City. The death was ruled a suicide and silenced the voice of a young artist who had been poised to become a bright star.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This Week's Review -- October 14, 1978

Eight songs debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 this week, including one that was returning to the chart after falling off a few weeks before. Although only two were Top 10 hits and a couple dropped from sight quickly, all have stories and several had a more lasting influence than chart success (or lack of it) would indicate.

Andy Gibb - "(Our Love) Don't Throw it All Away" (Not Available as MP3)

Andy Gibb was on quite a roll. Beginning in 1977 and continuing into the next year, his first three U.S. chart singles made it all the way to #1. All five of his 1970s chart hits made the Top 10, including this one. Being the younger brother of The Bee Gees certainly didn't hurt his career, especially considering that his famous siblings made up one of the hottest acts in the business during that time. Aside from their own music, the Brothers Gibb were prolific writes and producers for other acts as well.

"(Our Love) Don't Throw it All Away" was co-written by Barry Gibb and recorded as a Bee Gees track before being given to Andy for his Shadow Dancing LP. After his version peaked at #9 and was eventually dropped from radio stations' recurrent rotations, the Bee Gees' version would eventually show up late in '79 on their Greatest LP. Listening to Andy Gibb's version followed by that of his brothers, it almost sounds like they used the same track to provide music and backing vocals and merely replaced Barry Gibb's lead with Andy's rendition. However, it's merely a guess on my part since they sound very similar.

Walter Egan - "Hot Summer Nights" Walter Egan - Fundamental Roll / Not Shy - Hot Summer Nights

"Hot Summer Nights" was Egan's follow-up to "Magnet & Steel," a song that was all over the radio during the Summer of 1978. Like much of the material on his LP Not Shy, Egan received help from Lindsay Buckingham (his guitar solo on the song is instantly recognizable) and Stevie Nicks. The 45 was a disappointment, only reaching #55, but the song was remade by the group Night in 1979 and was a Top 20 hit. Despite its untimely exit from the chart, "Hot Summer Nights" is worth a listen.

Dan Hartman - "Instant Replay" Dan Hartman - Club Epic, Vol. 3 - Instant Replay

The records show this as Dan Hartman's first chart single, but Hartman had been no stranger to the music business. As a member of The Edgar Winter Group, he played on the #1 hit "Frankenstein" and wrote the Top 10 hit "Free Ride." Going solo in 1976, he released a couple of LPs that didn't have any hit singles. In 1978, Hartman decided to jump on the burgeoning disco bandwagon and recorded the Instant Replay album. 

"Instant Replay" was a cross-genre smash. Besides reaching the Pop Top 40, it was also a #1 disco hit, a moderate R&B hit and a Top 10 in the UK. After a few more hits in the 1980s, Hartman went on to write and produce, making records until his death in 1994.

Journey - "Lights" Journey - Infinity - Lights

A re-entry, one that appeared in the write-up I did on August 16. The second trip up the charts wasn't as successful as the first; it only reached #77 and dropped off after four weeks. Here's what I wrote the first time:

Before Journey made their mark as 1980s arena rock deities, they were a San Francisco-based band started up by a couple of guys who left Santana. Like Santana, the early incarnation of Journey was a progressive band that experimented with different genres and tended toward extended instrumental breaks. Also like Santana, the group had a revolving door of members with the guitarist (Neal Schon) being the only real mainstay. By the end of the 1970s, the group began putting the pieces together that would lead to multi-platinum success in the next decade: lead singer Steve Perry was brought on board in 1977 and immediately lent his skills to the group by co-writing this song with Schon.

"Lights" is something of a love letter to Journey's home city, with its mention of their beloved "City by the bay." At the time, Journey hadn't yet hit the Top 40 and this wouldn't be the tune to get them there (it peaked at #68). However, it indicated that the jazz-fusion days of the band were over and they were aspiring to make their way via the corporate rock that was beginning to burgeon at the time. They were a couple of LPs, another band member (Jonathan Cain in '81) and an MTV launch away from the Big Time.

Ace Frehley - "New York Groove" Ace Frehley - Kiss: Ace Frehley - New York Groove

How's this for excess? Take an immensely popular group...have all four members record their own "solo" albums...issue all four LPs on the same day (with similarly-themed covers) knowing that fans will buy them. Then, watch only one of the roughly 40 new songs make the Top 40. That's right, only "New York Groove" made the cut; Gene Simmons' "Radioactive" and Paul Stanley's "Hold Me Touch Me" didn't break the Top 40, while Peter Criss's two singles didn't chart at all.

"New York Groove" is a great song and had a respectable chart run, reaching #13 and sticking around for 21 weeks. While it was obviously written as a salute to Frehley's home city, its guitar riff accents a driving beat provided by the bass and drums. It was an "almost" disco song but had enough guitar to keep Kiss fans from dismissing it as such. Sadly, Kiss's next LP Dynasty didn't do as good a job of hiding the disco beats, especially with "I Was Made For Lovin' You." Fans still shake their heads about Kiss' "disco album."

Frehley would leave Kiss in 1982, but never had any of the solo success that his LP Ace Frehley seemed to suggest.

Eric Clapton - "Promises" Eric Clapton - Backless (Remastered) - Promises

"Promises" was the first single off Clapton's forthcoming LP Backless. The LP followed Clapton's highly successful '77 offering Slowhand (and the hits "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight") with a similar style and tone but the material of the new record was considered to be slightly inferior. That wasn't necessarily a problem for "Promises," though. It reached #9 early in 1979.

"Promises" is one of Clapton's less-regarded singles for some odd reason. Perhaps the laid-back shuffle doesn't translate as well with classic rock fans as much as "Layla" or "I Shot the Sheriff," nor does it fit in with adult contemporary types as "Wonderful Tonight." It's a shame, since the song is well-done and the slide guitar hook that matches the chorus is rather catchy.

Michael Henderson - "Take Me I'm Yours" Michael Henderson - The Essential Michael Henderson Vol. 1 - Take Me, I'm Yours

"Take Me I'm Yours" is the only single Michael Henderson took into the Hot 100. It didn't stay long either, reaching #88 in its three-week run. Regardless, Henderson was no stranger to music fans. As a bass player, he played with many of Motown's road shows of the 1960s and spent much of the 1970s in Miles Davis's band. Both of Norman Connors' chart singles in 1976 featured Henderson on vocals. One of those tunes, "I Am Your Starship," made the Top 40.

"Take Me I'm Yours" was an effort to lead Henderson into a smooth R&B singer in the burgeoning "Quiet Storm" radio format. As the song starts up, it sounds much like a George Benson tune until Henderson's vocals take over. While he was moderately successful on the R&B charts through his retirement from performing in 1986, success on the pop charts eluded him. However, his bass work has shown up in numerous samples over the years. Henderson's stature as a bassist in the R&B, funk and jazz fusion genres are solid, even if many casual fans aren't aware of his work.

Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg - "The Power of Gold" Dan Fogelberg - Twin Sons of Different Mothers - Power of Gold

As a contradiction to Michael Henderson, Dan Fogelberg is an artist many 1970s music fans are familiar with. His 70s chart success was just as sporadic as Henderson's; Fogelberg had several hit LPs through the decade but only charted two 45s (note: "Longer" was making its way up the charts at the end of 1979, but peaked in 1980). For Fogelberg, the bulk of his success on the Hot 100 came in the early 1980s but he's considered a 1970s artist as well.

After a series of albums in a folk- and country-influenced vein, Fogelberg became interested in learning more about jazz. Rather than simply hiring a jazz band for the studio sessions of his next LP, he collaborated with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg, who co-produced the record. The resulting LP was Twin Sons of Different Mothers, which solidified Fogelberg's musical clout. Even though "The Power of Gold" was the only hit single from the album, it set up the string of hits Fogelberg had with his next releases.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Week's Review -- October 14, 1972

Eight songs debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. While two died quick deaths on the chart, four made the Top 40 (and two came close), two made the Top 10 and one was a #1.

Betty Wright - "Baby Sitter" Betty Wright - The Essentials: Betty Wright - Baby Sitter

This was the follow-up to Wright's big hit "Clean Up Woman," with a similar topic about the "other woman" who was ready to slide in and pounce when her back was turned. Beginning with a lullaby tune played with a guitar (repeated with a harmonica later in the song), the song told about a hot-to-trot 16-year old...which just goes to show that even in 1972, there were songs about promiscuity among teens.

The song has a great soul feel to it, much like a female version of songs Wilson Pickett was doing at the time. It was fun to listen to and better song than a fan would expect from the #46 peak it eventually earned.

National Lampoon - "Deteriorata" Norman Rose - Greatest Hits of the National Lampoon - Deteriorata

You may have remembered the Top 10 hit from 1971 by Les Crane called "Desiderata." It was essentially a spoken-word recording, with Crane reciting a Max Ehrmann poem from 1927 over "inspirational" music while a gospel choir took over the choruses. Some found the song to be a product of a positive-thinking optimism brought about after some scary years in the late 1960s, while others found it to be pretentious garbage that would be a poor excuse for New Age material if it were released today. The people from National Lampoon thought it deserved a send-up.

Their parody version was called "Deteriorata" and was written by comedian Christopher Guest (of Spinal Tap fame, among other achievements). The "song" begins with Melissa Manchester singing the off-kilter take from the original: You are a fluke of the universe, you have no right to be here... The "spoken word part" not only lampoons the original but also tosses offbeat humor into the lyrics: "Know what to kiss...and when"..."For a good time, call 606-4311, ask for Ken"...and finally, "And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee."

Since hit radio is not always a humorous place despite AM jocks trying to convince us otherwise, the song was only listed for four weeks and never got higher than #91. According to Wikipedia, Les Crane preferred the National Lampoon version over his own hit recording.

The Stylistics - "I'm Stone in Love With You"  The Stylistics - Round 2 - I'm Stone In Love With You

If you're a 1970s music fan, you pretty much know what you're going to get with a Stylistics record. Part of the Thom Bell-produced "Philadelphia Sound," all of their hits were ballads featuring the smooth voice of Russell Thomkins, Jr. and were sugar-coated pop confections (made specifically as ear candy to the record-buying public). There was a formula involved: a soaring falsetto over studio musicians, with lyrics that extolled a blissful relationship. Thom Bell's production technique allowed the music to accent Thompkins' vocals without either overpowering the other. Interestingly, once the band split from Bell after 1974, the balance between music and vocals was offset and their U.S. hits suddenly stopped.

There really isn't much to add to the last paragraph that will explain anything additional about "I'm Stone in Love With You." It fit the Bell/Stylistics formula and was a #10 hit. I like it, but I definitely see where others might find it to be way too "syrupy sweet" for their tastes.

Bulldog - "No"  (Not available as an MP3)

From the hopeful lyrics of the Stylistics, Bulldog's "No" is an entirely different kind of song about male/female relationships. For all the nostalgia about the "anything goes" aura that was prevalent during the Sexual Revolution, "No" is a song that told the other side of the story: the song's narrator is rejected after a long night of trying to score. It spent 15 weeks on the Billboard chart -- an eternity in '72 unless the song was a huge hit -- but barely missed the Top 40. It really deserved to be a bigger hit than it was. Sadly, Bulldog (founded by two former members of The Rascals) never managed to get another 45 on the national charts again. By 1978 the band's two main members returned as part of the powerpop group Fotomaker and notched a couple more low-charting hits.

Jim Croce - "Operator (That's Not the Way it Feels)"  Jim Croce - You Don't Mess Around With Jim - Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)

Last week, I mentioned how Jim Croce's music affected me when I was a kid. This week, as I was playing "Operator" while writing down the rough notes I use when I type out these reviews, my 11-year old daughter asked me about something she didn't quite understand. She asked why somebody was talking to an operator when he could've just dialed 411. And then she asked about what the line "you can keep the dime" meant. There are few things that make somebody feel older than trying to explain something to somebody who doesn't have the same frame of the UHF/VHF dials on a TV set, or a TV that didn't come with a remote control, or the spindle adapter that allowed a 45 RPM record to play on an LP player, or even a rotary dial on a telephone. At least she understood that he was at a pay phone.

The thing I love about this song is the story it tells. A man is hoping to contact his former lover after she left him for a friend of his and moved to L.A. Despite asserting he's overcome his pain and moved on with his life, it's obvious he still hasn't come to grips with what happened. At the end of the song, he hangs up the phone without having the courage to make the call. It's a bit of reality that didn't always find its way into Top 40 radio in 1972 (even if it did appear around the same time as Dr. Hook's "Sylvia's Mother," another song that played out over a telephone conversation). As I mentioned last week, it's another case where fans might feel cheated that Croce was taken so young because he had the potential to do so much more.

Considering that "Operator" has been a radio fixture for much longer than Croce's own lifespan, it might surprise fans to know the song wasn't a Top 10 hit. His second chart single, it only reached #17.

The Temptations - "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" The Temptations - My Girl: The Very Best of the Temptations - Papa Was a Rollin' Stone

Of all the songs I've reviewed here since beginning this weekly excursion, only a few havemade me pull out a personal story. Yes, I just finished relating something about Jim Croce (as I did last week); however, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" has another significance to me. I was born on December 2, 1972, which was a Saturday. Since Saturdays are the "week ending" dates of Billboard charts, that was a day that appears on their charts. And the very day that I was born, the #1 song was "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."

The song is memorable for its lengthy instrumental opening. Starting with the rhythm section (bass and hi-hat percussion) and soon followed by drums and then a great guitar break, the music builds and sets the song's tone for two minutes until Dennis Edwards is ready to begin singing. Motown's house band, The Funk Brothers, were laying down some grooves that were inspired by both Curtis Mayfield and Miles Davis. The lyrics about an absentee father who was also a fraud and a womanizer didn't sit well with Edwards (whose own father had passed away of "the Third of September," even though the song wasn't written for him originally). The friction between Edwards and writer/producer Norman Whitfield over the song likely helped set up the gruff, almost spiteful vocals. The LP version of the song was twelve minutes long; the single edit was just under seven minutes and still long for many pop stations at that time.

It's a classic, despite the timing.

The Guess Who - "Runnin' Back to Saskatoon" The Guess Who - Live At the Paramount - Runnin' Back to Saskatoon

This was one of the few live records to make the Billboard Hot 100. Taken from their LP Live at the Paramount, it was the group's lowest-charting single of the 1970s. Only reaching #96, it was gone from the survey after only three weeks.

Austin Roberts - "Something's Wrong With Me" (Not available as an MP3)

Upon first listen, this tune sounds very much like a product of its times. It has that melodramatic "sound" that was a hallmark of '70s pop, complete with the requisite "wah-wah" guitar and brass-and-strings orchestration behind him. If the voice sounds familiar, that may be because Roberts had an association with Hanna-Barbera and was heard in Saturday-morning staples Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and Josie and the Pussycats when they used generic music to accompany the animated chase scenes.

The song was a respectable hit, reaching #12. Although this single was the first one to chart under Roberts' name, he was a member of the studio group Arkade, who had two minor hits in 1970-'71.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Site Location!

As promised, I have moved my Hits of the 1970s website from its old location on Geocities to a new server. The new address is and it's already up and running as of today. Since Geocities will be closing down on October 21, the site is still being found there in order to keep any old links to it from being broken.

Now that I've moved the site to a larger server, there will be some additions in the future. New content will be arriving as soon as I can get them written, a new design may be in store and I'm investigating the possibility of making pages devoted specifically to artists. As it is now, if you want to see The Rolling Stones' info you need to go to the page for the letter R and scroll down until you get to the right place; if you want to see their hit LPs you have to click on a different link and wait again. With artist pages, you'll have a separate URL for the Stones, one that will have all their info available.

Finally, once I begin doing pages devoted to artists, I'll also be offering sponsorships. If you're a fan of an artist and would like to help keep the site going, you'll be able to run your banner on the page of your choice. I'll update my progress on this blog as I work out the details.

Back to the reviews...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Week's Review -- October 6, 1973

There were ten new singles debuting on Billboard's Hot 100 this week. Half would reach the Top 40, four made Top 10 and two were #1 singles. Among the stories: a sad epitaph for a man who'd just died in a plane crash, two songs that had been remade by their performers a hit by an ex-Beatle and a duet by two Motown superstars.

Todd Rundgren - "Hello it's Me" Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything? - Hello It's Me

Todd Rundgren had already recorded "Hello it's Me" when it appeared on the first LP of his former group The Nazz in 1968. The original was a slower ballad, but when Rundgren worked on his 1972 Something/Anything? LP he decided to rework the piece. Using the production chops he developed in the studio for his post-Nazz projects (both as part of the "group" Runt and his solo work), he turned the song into a radio-friendly piece that is considered to be his best song by many.

Even though "Hello it's Me" has been a radio staple for more than 35 years, it has found its way into other pop culture. For instance, the pilot episode of That 70s Show had the gang sneaking out to attend a Rundgren concert and "Hello it's Me" was the song played at the end of the show. The song eventually peaked at a respectable #5. Not bad for a song that took over a year to be a hit (or 5, if you consider its Nazz version).

Trivia: in "Hello it's Me" you'll hear female voices in the background. One of those voices belonged to Vickie Sue Robinson, who would hit the charts herself later in the 1970s with "Turn the Beat Around."

Foster Sylvers - "Hey, Little Girl" (Not available as MP3)

Here's a song I haven't heard yet. It was a remake of Dee Clark's 1959 hit and sung by one of the members of the 9-person group of brothers and sisters called The Sylvers. Foster Sylvers was enjoying the follow-up to his hit "Misdemeanor" but after peaking at #92, Foster never again reached the Top 100 chart as a solo act.

By the way...when recording the LP that contained both of his Hot 100 singles, Foster Sylvers was 11 years old.

Jim Croce - "I Got a Name" Jim Croce - I Got a Name - I Got a Name

I was 17 years old. I had just graduated from high school and was waiting for the day I was supposed to report for Army basic training. That summer, I picked up some LPs at a yard sale cheaply and one was Jim Croce's I Got a Name. I had been familiar with the title song but at that point in my life -- just as I was about to set off on my own -- the lyrics definitely resonated with me. In a way, Jim Croce was explaining with words and an acoustic guitar exactly how I was feeling.

For Jim Croce, the song was a reminder of just how short life can be. As his song was appearing on the charts, his fans were learning the sad news of his death in a plane crash on September 27th. He was 30 years old. As a title, "I Got a Name" was striking considering the fact he had passed. The song would reach #10, the LP would top out at #2 and another prophetic tune ("Time in a Bottle," from the earlier LP You Don't Mess Around With Jim) would become the third posthumous #1 single in Billboard's rock era.

While it will never be known how many more hits Jim Croce had in him, the body of work he left in his few LPs displayed a versatility and understanding that still sounds real even after many years have gone by. It's something that hit me as a 17-year old who was hoping the road I was about to travel would lead me toward a better place. "I Got a Name" is timeless in that regard.

Betty Wright - "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker" Betty Wright - The Essentials: Betty Wright - Let Me Be Your Lovemaker

Betty Wright is best known for "Clean Up Woman," a song she recorded at the age of 18 but was memorable because of a guitar lick played by another young prodigy, Ray Parker, Jr. With "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker," she was still looking for the next hit that would return her to the Top 40. This wouldn't be the one; it peaked at #55 and only managed five weeks on the survey. It was more subdued than her earlier hit, with more muted instrumentation in the background.

Donna Fargo - "Little Girl Gone" Donna Fargo - The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. - Little Girl Gone

Another artist trying to find her way back to earlier heights was Donna Fargo. After two big pop hits in '72-'73 ("The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." and "Funny Face"), she hadn't been able to break the pop Top 40. While she never did make it, she was still successful on the country chart throughout the 1970s, with 6 #1 hits. "Little Girl Gone" stalled at #57 on the pop side but reached #2 country. In fact, Donna Fargo was one of the few female country artists to sustain crossover success on the pop side as well as one of even fewer to write her own material.

Upon listening,"Little Girl Gone" definitely sounds like a Donna Fargo song. It has all the conventions: the instruments, the phrasing and -- most of all -- the vocals. Told from the perspective of a woman who's returned to the home where she grew up after several years away, it recalls the old adage that you really can't go back once you leave.

The Dells - "My Pretending Days Are Over" The Dells - The Dells: Ultimate Collection - My Pretending Days Are Over

The Dells were a well-established R&B/soul group who'd been charting fairly regularly since the 1950s. "My Pretending Days Are Over" is a decent song from that genre despite a falsetto vocal at the beginning; however, by 1973 the sound was being done better by groups like The Stylistics, The Spinners and even Gladys Knight & the Pips. The song didn't get any higher than #51 before it disappeared. Considering they never managed to get any higher on the pop chart again, it appeared The Dells' hitmaking days were over as well.

Ringo Starr - "Photograph" Ringo Starr - Ringo - Photograph

With "Photograph," Ringo Starr became the third ex-Beatle to notch a #1 single. Surprisingly, the only member of the Fab Four left who hadn't scored a #1 single was John Lennon (who'd get there in '74 but not before Ringo and George had two each and Paul three). In fact, from 1970-'73 it could be argued that Ringo Starr and George Harrison were enjoying better solo careers than their more famous Beatle cohorts. However, Lennon's music was often experimental and political (which meant it was less radio-friendly) and McCartney was just beginning to gel with his new band Wings (which would propel him to a long series of hit throughout the 1970s).

"Photograph" was from the LP Ringo, which contained both his #1 singles ("You're Sixteen" was the other) and is often considered to be his finest solo LP. Additionally, it was the closest Beatle fans would get to a reunion of the group: all the ex-members contributed even though no track has all four together. George Harrison assisted with "Photograph" by co-writing the song with Starr and contributing guitar and vocals to the track.

Hank Wilson - "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" Leon Russell - Hank Wilson's Back! - Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms b/w "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" Leon Russell - Hank Wilson's Back! - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

Despite the name printed on 45 copies of this single and an LP titled Hank Wilson's Back, there was no singer named Hank Wilson. The alter ego of singer Leon Russell (pictured on his LP with his back turned), Wilson was a country singer whose name was meant to evoke Hank Williams. The entire LP consisted of covers of 1950s and early '60s country music that Russell listened to while growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Williams was the writer of one of the songs on this two-sided single.

While the songs were solidly in the country vernacular, Russell did them in his own style. The result was a reverent, respectful take on the music of his youth. Between the songs of Hank Williams, bluegrass, honk-tonk, trucker songs and Americana, Russell's LP was one of the few instances where popular music helped bridge the generation gap and helped introduce country music to an audience that may not have ever considered listening to it.

Even though the Wilson project exposed Leon Russell's country roots, the singer would sometimes return to country music afterwards. He recorded three more albums as Hank Wilson over the decades and hit #1 on the country charts in 1979 with Willie Nelson when they remade "Heartbreak Hotel."

The Carpenters - "Top of the World" Carpenters - The Singles, 1969 - 1973 - Top of the World

"Top of the World" had been originally recorded for The Carpenters' LP A Song for You in 1972. Despite its popularity as an album track, a cover version sung by Lynn Anderson reached #1 on the country charts and the song never was considered for single release. In 1973, A&M Records issued a greatest hits compilation called The Singles 1969-1973 and Richard Carpenter decided "Top of the World" could be a single from the new project. Remixing the instrumental track and re-recording Karen Carpenter's vocal, the "new" version was issued to radio.

The song was a huge hit. It would become The Carpenters' second #1 single, after a string of near-misses that included five songs that reached #2 and two more that stalled at #3 since their first #1" (They Long to Be) Close to You." The greatest hits compilation would also reach #1 on the LP chart -- the only LP they'd ride to the top of that chart -- and became one of the biggest selling albums of the 1970s.

Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye - "You're a Special Part of Me" Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye - Diana & Marvin - You're a Special Part of Me

In 1973, Motown Records was a much different place than it was 5 years before. They had left Detroit for Los Angeles, their hitmaking machine no longer resembled a highly efficient assembly line, some of their stars had left the label and others had stopped hitting. Two of their biggest stars at the time were Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and even those two were moving in different career directions: Ross had settled into her post-Supremes era as a megastar and actress, while Gaye was pushing new boundaries and broaching subjects like social issues and sexuality that weren't often found in Motown music before the 1970s.

However, the two artists had a great deal of affection for one another and recorded a duet LP called Diana & Marvin. They sounded great together, and "You're a Special Part of Me" was the first of their three singles from that album. Even though both artists would leave Motown by the early 1980s, they still had a tremendous respect for each other; after Gaye was senselessly shot to death in 1984, Ross would sing a tribute song for him called "Missing You" that was among her last big hits.