Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Week's Review -- March 31, 1973

There were nine new singles making their first appearance in Billboard's Hot 100, with six eventually reaching into the Top 40. Additionally, one of those songs made it to the #1 position. Nearly all of the acts here are "names" who were hitmakers either before (like Brenda Lee) or later (Kenny Loggins). That said, the two acts least likely to be recognized here -- Gunhill Road and Nolan Porter -- might be the most interesting. And then there's The Blue Ridge Rangers, which was billed as a group but was really John Fogerty's post-Creedence Clearwater Revival solo project.

Among the back issues of Billboard over at Google Books is the March 31, 1973 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 72. Page 3 has a short article that mentions that the U.S. government was moving to deport John Lennon, a process that was politically motivated and ultimately failed two and a half years later. Page 10 mentions an upcoming concert by "Sunny & Cher," a typo that really wasn't necessary in 1973. Radio geeks will be interested in an article beginning on page 3 about syndication. Finally, there is an extended section about Jerry Lee Lewis, who was enjoying a career resurgence at the time.

Carly Simon - "The Right Thing To Do" The Right Thing to Do - No Secrets

(Debuted #70, Peaked #17, 13 Weeks on chart)

The lead track from Carly Simon's No Secrets LP isn't as much of a secret as the song it followed as a single. While "You're So Vain" was allegedly about a past relationship, "The Right Thing to Do" was definitely about her new husband James Taylor. Featuring Simon's signature lyric style and a gospel-influenced female choir backing her up, she expounds upon the feelings that led her to walk down the aisle with Taylor soon after the album's release.

Loggins and Messina - "Thinking Of You" Thinking of You - Loggins and Messina

(Debuted #79, Peaked #18, 13 Weeks on chart)

"Thinking of You" is the second song in a row about the feeling that results when love washes over you. In this case, Jim Messina wrote the song about his then-current girlfriend. It appeared on the self-titled second LP for the duo, an act that began by accident after Messina's attempts at simply producing Kenny Loggins as a solo artist took a different path than expected. While the duo's success forced Messina to stay out on the road after he decided to cut back, it may have helped Loggins take a big step towards a successful career on his own.

The YouTube video above features the album version, which was a different mix than what was on the single. That version was "sweetened" to better appeal to the listeners of AM radio, the "hit" stations of the day.

The Blue Ridge Rangers - "Hearts of Stone" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #84, Peaked #37, 12 Weeks on chart)

After leaving Creedence Clearwater Revival for a solo career, John Fogerty decided to use a tactic that seems tame today, but was definitely a risky proposition in the early 1970s. Rather than release a record under his own name that would get immediately judged on his former band's merits, he gave the album a bogus group name and even recorded in a totally different format. Though five people were shown on the album cover in silhouette, The Blue Ridge Rangers was a one-man band that featured Fogerty.

Despite being done as a country song, "Hearts of Stone" was written as an R&B tune with a gospel influence. Written by Rudy Jackson of The Jewels in 1954, it was covered by The Charms, who took it #1 on the R&B chart the same year. It was also covered by Red Foley, who gave it a country treatment, as well as The Fontaine Sisters, who topped the pop chart with it. Later versions were done by Elvis Presley and The Bill Black Combo, which certainly lend it a Rockabilly quality that Fogerty features in his own rendition.

Don McLean - "If We Try" If We Try - Favorites & Rarities

(Debuted #87, Peaked #58, 7 Weeks on chart)

As a song that fell short of the Top 40, "If We Try" might be considered to be a disappointment after "American Pie" and "Vincent," but really deserves to be listened to without any regard for Don McLean's other hits. Starting off as a hopeful ballad that expresses the narrator's desire to take a relationship to the next level, he becomes more forceful in the "middle eight" as he wishes that fate would intervene before falling back into the ballad to finish the song.

In a more perfect world, "If We Try" would have been a bigger hit than it was, as the era of the singer/songwriter was in full swing. However, McLean's biggest hits were about others (at least on the surface); for some odd reason, the inward-looking lyrics that were hallmarks of other singers who performed their own material didn't need apply with McLean's material except among his most rabid fans. If you're not familiar with "If We Try," click on the video above and thank me later.

I had a misheard lyric one point, McLean sings, "well, you've got me standing deaf and blind." That makes perfect sense in the context of the song, but I can't help hearing the words as "well, you've got me standing effin' blind." That twists the mood of the song a bit.

Brenda Lee - "Nobody Wins" Nobody Wins - The Definitive Collection: Brenda Lee

(Debuted #94, Peaked #70, 5 Weeks on chart)

After a successful career in the early 1960s which included two #1 singles and a dozen Top 10 hits, Brenda Lee was one of the many artists who got pushed aside by the British Invasion. She never went away, but the hits dried up as public tastes changed. By the early 1970s, she re-channeled her energies to the more mature country audience in the same manner as many other artists from the era. Not yet 30, Lee still had the ability to be a hitmaker and the country audience was more than happy to accept her.

Her first Top 10 country tune -- and the last Hot 100 listing -- was "Nobody Wins," a song written by Kris Kristofferson. Like many of Kristofferson's songs, ithe lyrics mention the aftermath of a failed relationship; both sides are ready to walk away, and it isn't clear yet whether there will be better days ahead for either. Opening with a chorus's singing, the Owen Bradley-produced song tended toward the Ray Price sound of country music than the "Outlaw" sound that would soon kick in the saloon doors of the format. That change would throttle her momentum again, but not nearly as badly as The Beatles' arrival did. Lee managed to continue hitting the country charts for another decade, before settling into a "living legend" status.

Gunhill Road - "Back When My Hair Was Short" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #97, Peaked #40, 15 Weeks on chart)

"Back When My Hair Was Short" is a series of reflections of life while growing up. The lines are wistful and often humorous, but were originally rawer when first recorded. That was in 1972, and when the song was given such a good review, the band was coerced to go back into the studio and do it again without the drug refences. It ended up being a surprise Top 40 hit, and was a hit in more places than expected due to its strength in both the FM listeners and the AM "hit" radio crowd.

I still haven't figured out if the final verse (which begins with "Soon when my hair is short, I'll make a full report of how I came back alive") is a reference to getting drafted into the military and sent overseas -- a real choice that was still vaild in 1972 -- or if it's just a reference to getting older and fitting into society. Really, it could be either choice.

The song was produced by Kenny Rogers (yes, the guy who later sang "The Gambler"), and its success was such a surprise to the band that they never bothered recording a follow-up LP. In fact, the album was re-released last year (see the Amazon link below for details, as no MP3 is available) which included both versions of "Back When My Hair Was Short" for the amusement of fans.

The J. Geils Band - "Give It To Me" Give It to Me - Bloodshot

(Debuted #98, Peaked #30, 16 Weeks on chart)

For a band that was renowned for reworking existing songs in their own style, "Give it to Me" was an original. Written by lead singer and keyboardist Seth Justman, the song closed out their Bloodshot LP.  Opening with a reggae-influenced beat, the song on the album devolved into an extended jam session that featured plenty of extended instrumental solos during its final four minutes. The solo version, however, cut out a lot of what made the song charming to better fit within the radio format clocks.

In the long term, cutting out the boogie was effective in getting their song into the Top 40.

Billy Preston - "Will It Go Round In Circles" Will It Go Round in Circles - Ultimate Collection: Billy Preston

(Debuted #99, Peaked #1, 22 Weeks on chart)

"Will it Go Round in Circles" was the first of two #1 solo singles for Billy Preston (and he was also given credit for The Beatles' "Get Back"). The Houston native made a long career as a sideman for others, between his billing on that Beatles song, touring along with The Rolling Stones, and even appearing uncredited on Sly & the Family Stone's material. After his solo career tailed off in the late 1970s, he largely returned to session work and generally backed other for the rest of his life. There were exceptions, like his 1979/'80 #2 duet "With You I'm Born Again," but his solo work took a back seat most of the time.

"Will it Go Round in Circles" is a song that plays with phrases. Going beyond the concept of the "full circle," Preston ditches the philosophical stuff and gets down to a jam that is influenced by both soul and funk. That showmanship helped propel the single to #1.

Nolan Porter - "If I Could Only Be Sure" If I Could Only Be Sure - Nolan

(Debuted #100, Peaked #89, 4 Weeks on chart)

Nolan Porter charted three songs, and each was billed differently. While "If I Could Only Be Sure" was credited to him by his full name, he also charted on the Hot 100 as Nolan and N.F. Porter. Each song was interesting, but a few listens to this one has convinced me that it is truly a "lost" hit that deserved better than the #89 peak it eventually reached.

"If I Could Only Be Sure" was co-written by Nolan with Gabriel Mekler, who helped get Steppenwolf started and once owned the record company that included Nolan on its roster. It featured a soul influence, but was also progressive enough for the times. As I said, it really deserved to get more airplay than it did.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rewind -- March 29, 1975

(This is another in a series where I take a review from this blog's first year and bring it in line with its current format.)

Eleven singles made their debut this week on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, with one being a re-entry that had fallen off the chart a month before. This was truly a week packed with hits, as seven of the singles made the Top 40 and two earned Top 10 status. Perhaps not so surprising given the popularity of singer/songwriters at the time, six of the songs were performed by their authors.

While I often post a link to Google Books' online archive of Billboard editions, the issue from March 29, 1975 is unfortunately missing from the archives.

Lobo - "Don't Tell Me Goodnight" Lobo - The Best of Lobo - Don't Tell Me Goodnight

(Debuted #86, Peaked #27, 9 Weeks on chart)

Since 1971, Lobo had scored a bunch of hits. His laid-back style was well-suited to the popular music of the time, but the looming rise of dance-oriented music would affect his hitmaking potential later. While "Don't Tell Me Goodnight" would be his 12th chart single and seventh Top 40 hit, it would also be his last hit for the next four years.

Lobo wrote this song under his real name, Ronald LaVoie. While "Don't Tell Me Goodnight" seems at first to be a plea to his lover to not go home, the lyrics indicate that he's dreading the idea of going to sleep. From the words, he just wants to stay awake and let the moment last as long as possible. I remember that feeling from earlier in my life, when love was still in bloom and it was still a thrill to just sit up late and spend time together. While that may seem like I just said I wouldn't do that now, from the perspective of being married for 16 years, having a kid and a job and responsibilities that often lead us to nod off a lot sooner at's nice to be reminded of those simpler times when different things seemed important.

Herbie Mann - "Hijack" Herbie Mann - Discotheque - Hi-Jack (LP Version)

(Debuted #87, Peaked #14, 11 Weeks on chart)

Brooklyn-born flautist Herbie Mann was well-known in the jazz world but began expanding his horizons during the 1970s. Among the new directions in his work was exploration of pop, soul, reggae and disco. His 1975 LP was titled Discotheque, a nod to the dance music that was beginning to percolate at the time. However, as his wider variety brought him new fans, some jazz purists were turned off by his newfound commercial appeal.

"Hijack" was a re-entry; Mann had spent four weeks on the chart in February and peaked at #93. His second try saw the song propelled into the Top 20. The song was mainly an instrumental, with sporadic lyrics of "Hijack...your love" sung throughout and other vocal embellishments added. Latin percussion and a bass groove provide the rhythm, a keyboard and Mann's flute add to the mix along with a scratch guitar and an upbeat tempo. While buoyed by airplay on R&B radio, the song was a lesser hit on that chart (#24), but it would be #1 for three weeks on Billboard's disco survey.

Major Harris - "Love Won't Let Me Wait" Major Harris - My Way - Love Won't Let Me Wait

(Debuted #81, Peaked #5, 18 Weeks on chart)

One of the most sensual hits of the decade, "Love Won't Let Me Wait" was a lush Philly soul ballad. With its romantic instrumental background and Harris's silky smooth vocal, there's no need to read the lyric sheet to get an idea of what he's singing about. In an era where singers like Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Barry White were making songs that can be called "music to set the mood for sweet lovin'," this song actually stands out among the rest, which says a lot. It was an unqualified smash, reaching #1 on Billboard's soul chart in addition to its #5 peak on the Hot 100.

Major Harris was born into music. His grandparents played Vaudeville, his father was a guitarist and his mother sang in a church choir. His brother was a singer and songwriter and his cousin was producer Norman Harris. Before "Love Won't Let Me Wait," he was a member of several vocal groups. Among those groups were a post-Frankie Lymon lineup of The Teenagers, The Jarmels (but after they hit with "A Little Bit of Soap") as well as The Delfonics (also after they scored their biggest hits). Despite the breakout success of "Love Won't Let Me Wait" after so many years of paying his dues, Harris had some lesser soul hits and a couple poor-charting pop hits. Once the solo hits dried up, Harris returned to The Delfonics, touring with one of the two different groups using the group name.

Bloodstone - "My Little Lady" Bloodstone - The Essentials: Bloodstone - My Little Lady (Single Version)

(Debuted #80, Peaked #57, 7 Weeks on chart)

Though best known for their slow ballad "Natural High," Bloodstone was as capable as any 1970s R&B group of cutting loose. Formed as a doo-wop group in Kansas City in 1962, they evolved along with the music, picking up instruments and developing a solid funk/R&B vibe melding their vocal roots with rock-influenced rhythm. With "My Little Lady," the group had a chance to show its more upbeat side. Sadly, it would be their last pop hit.

The song is fun and contains elements of many R&B styles. There are Motown-like guitar licks, strings and flute reminiscent of Philly Soul, the doo-wop inflections of Chicago's Chi-Lites, a Curtis Mayfield-sounding bridge and a falsetto lead like The Stylistics. The song even ends with the "shave and a haircut, two bits" melody most of us learned as kids.

Ecstasy, Passion and Pain - "One Beautiful Day" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #48, 6 Weeks on chart)

"One Beautiful Day" was the highest-peaking of four songs Ecstasy, Passion & Pain would score in the Hot 100 during the 1970s. During the disco group's existence (1973-'77) it had a virtual revolving door of members, with only singer Barbara Roy remaining for the duration. The band was made up of musicians who could play their instruments on the road but for their recordings MFSB (the band that had a #1 hit with "T.S.O.P.") was used instead.

Upon listening, "One Beautiful Day" seems like a good example of the era between Philadelphia Soul's heyday (probably due to MFSB's appearance on the track) and the time when Disco dominated. In a way, it also sounds a little like Gladys Knight but with female Pips backing her up.

The Carpenters - "Only Yesterday" Carpenters - Horizon - Only Yesterday

(Debuted #74, Peaked #4, 13 Weeks on chart)

After being one of the top-selling acts of the 1970s and becoming an international sensation, The Carpenters were beginning their inevitable decline. "Only Yesterday" would be the final Top 10 pop hit for the brother/sister duo. They would still notch several #1 singles on Billboard's adult contemporary charts (a list which included "Only Yesterday") but their mainstream success was beginning to fade.

In the sense that the sibling duo's best chart-topping days were behind them, "Only Yesterday" comes off as an ironic title. The song was written by Richard Carpenter and college buddy John Bettis -- who also co-wrote another "looking back" song, "Yesterday Once More" -- the song lyrics open up with a downbeat state of loneliness before perking up for the chorus. As usual, Richard and Karen Carpenter provide their own backing vocals, multitracked onto the song along with Karen's lead.

Speaking of Karen Carpenter, I've never understood why she so often gets maligned by those who don't like her music. If the group's music seems bland and pedestrian, that's an adequate argument and many will certainly agree; if that's the case, blame Richard Carpenter for arranging it. However, Karen Carpenter was blessed with a tremendous voice and doesn't deserve the derision. She could have sung the words from a phone book and sounded good.

Brian Protheroe - "Pinball" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #100, Peaked #60, 7 Weeks on chart)

This was the only U.S. hit for Brian Protheroe, a British singer and actor. Since he essentially recorded and released his albums in between his acting gigs and spent little time on the road to support them, he had only moderate success in his native country and even less fortune on this side of the Atlantic.

Prior to this week's review, I had never heard "Pinball" before. My first time listening, I think I assumed the song was a recollection of his youth, with lyrics about being bored by his music, how he no longer knows it all and a mention of "Monroe" (the next line mentions "she" so I can't help but guess he's talking about Marilyn). However, upon further listening, I pick up lines about running out of pale ale (which is more of an adult activity) and feeling "like a pinball" -- hung over, perhaps? -- as a result. Protheroe is accompanied by only an acoustic guitar for the song's first verse, but a drum, bass, saxophone and backing singers arrive later. Nice sax solo before the final verse and fade, though.

Gordon Lightfoot - "Rainy Day People" Gordon Lightfoot - Cold on the Shoulder - Rainy Day People

(Debuted #84, Peaked #26, 11 Weeks on chart)

A typically low-key effort from Gordon Lightfoot that evokes his two previous hits ("Sundown" and "Carefree Highway") in style and performance but has a lighter mood, "Rainy Day People" failed to make the Top 10 as both songs did. Nevertheless, it is among his better-known 1970s singles.It was even a minor hit on Billboard's country chart.

Accompanied by his trusty acoustic guitar and a backing band that includes drums, bass, steel guitar and string section, Lightfoot sings in a conversational tone. The song doesn't tell a story as much as it simply tells about regular folks and how they roll with life. When it's raining, people are often forced to stay inside; Lightfoot's description tells me his "rainy day people" would be great company to wait out the bad weather with. Of course, if one reads deeper and thinks of a rainy day as a time of hardship (as in the term "save it for a rainy day") the song has an entirely different outlook.

Neil Sedaka - The Immigrant" Neil Sedaka - Laughter In the Rain - The Immigrant

(Debuted #83, Peaked #22, 10 Weeks on chart)

Fresh off the success of his "comeback" hit "Laughter in the Rain," Neil Sedaka issued "The Immigrant" as the followup. While not able to match the earlier hit's #1 position, it still made the Top 40 and kept his name on the radio just as one of the songs he wrote ("Love Will Keep Us Together") was about to become a huge hit.

"The Immigrant" has a nostalgic tone, with lyrics telling how America once opened its arms to immigrants and a second verse mentioning that a man was being held back from that promise. Sedaka, a Brooklyn native whose own grandparents had come through Ellis Island, was certainly acquainted with the historical aspect. However, according to Wikipedia, it was written in response to John Lennon's issues at that time with the U.S. Immigration service and their efforts to deport him. That said, Wikipedia also claims it was the flip side to "Laughter in the Rain" (actually, "Endlessly" was the B-side of that single) so it's important to consider the source when reading that.

Whatever Sedaka's inspiration of the song, he wasn't alone in pointing out the change in U.S. policy on immigration. Even today, it's still a topic of heated debate. Since this blog isn't political in nature, we'll move on to the next song.

Michael Murphey - "Wildfire" Michael Murphey - Blue Sky - Night Thunder - Wildfire

(Debuted #99, Peaked #3, 19 Weeks on chart)

Little girls sure seem to love songs about horses. My daughter is 13 years old and has loved this song ever since the age of 6, when she first learned it was about a pony. Back then, she was still in that inquisitive stage younger kids go through and was constantly asking me about the story in "Wildfire" as I played it for her. Why did the horse break out of its stall in a raging blizzard? Why did the girl chase after it? Did she die or just the horse?

What I didn't tell her then was that the girl in the song was a ghost, haunting the storyteller at night and making him believe she'd come back for him, riding down Yellow Mountain atop her magnificent horse. Since he's living a hard life of sodbusting in Nebraska, there's not much he'd rather do than follow her and leave the bitter cold behind him. Of course, the song doesn't dwell on the fact that in order to run off with a ghost, he'd have to be dead himself...but I grew up in another remote location known for its extreme cold (Northern New York) and understand the sentiment of wanting to get away, regardless of the means.

There are two versions of "Wildfire" heard on the radio today. The album version included a classically-inspired piano intro and outro, while the single version omits both and fades out early. Another version was recorded by the artist -- now named Michael Martin Murphey -- for a 1982 Best of LP that sometimes shows up, masquerading as the real version. The fact that it appeals to younger listeners like my daughter has lent a timeless quality to the song.

Evie Sands - "You Brought The Woman Out Of Me" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #50, 8 Weeks on chart)

Evie Sands' biography reads like a music business version of Murphy's Law. During the 1960s, she had three singles dashed before they had any chance of becoming hits. First, the recording of her 1965 debut single "Take Me for a Little While" was taken by an unscrupulous engineer and submitted to Chess Records as a demo, so they were able to rush a version of the song by Jackie Ross (who didn't know she was part of the ruse) before her song could be released. As the fallout from that mess was being cleaned up, her followup "I Can't Let Go" would be ignored; the song was soon recorded by The Hollies, and once again she was beaten out by another act. Finally, the bankruptcy of her record label Cameo-Parkway, doomed her single "Angel of the Morning" so Merilee Rush ended up having a big hit with the song. Sands finally made the Billboard chart in 1969, but spent most of the 1970s focusing on songwriting (Chip Taylor was the writer for all three of the songs mentioned earlier) rather than performing.

In 1975, she released the LP Estate of Mind, which contained ten songs she'd written. One of those songs was "You Brought the Woman Out of Me." And as you might guess from the title, it's about a sexual awakening. Her performance of the song was like a slightly harder-edged take on what Carly Simon had already been doing for the previous five years as a confessional singer/songwriter. By 1975, there were enough female singer/songwriters in the business to prevent Sands from standing out enough to be noticed. Neither this song or its followup made much of an impact on the charts. After sporadic recording throughout the 1970s, Evie Sands stopped performing altogether around 1979 and was out of the business for nearly two decades.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Week's Review -- March 22, 1975

There were eight new singles debuting in the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with three reaching into the Top 40 and one going all the way to #1. Some of the hits were also popular on other formats, hitting #1 on the R&B, country and disco charts.

The March 22, 1975 issue of Billboard is missing from the archive over at Google Books, so I'll mention again that I write another blog that looks at 1980s music as well. 80s Music Mayhem just finished looking at 1985 this week, including the song that set Casey Kasem off on his now-famous tirade while recording American Top 40.

MP3's at

The Temptations - "Shakey Ground" Shakey Ground - Number 1's: The Temptations

(Debuted #81, Peaked #26, 14 Weeks on chart)

Just last month, Phoebe Snow was featured on this blog with a cover version of "Shakey Ground" (reviewed here), but there wasn't an available video for anybody who wanted to listen to it. With the original Temptatios version, that's not a problem, even though it's lip-synched "live" performance.

The studio recording of "Shakey Ground" was a funk-fueled number that was written by Funkadelic member Eddie Hazel, who also played lead guitar on the song. Dennis Edwards handled the lead vocal. It was the group's best showing on the pop chart since 1973's "Masterpiece" and was their final #1 R&B single.

John Denver - "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" Thank God I'm a Country Boy (Live) - John Denver: 16 Biggest Hits

(Debuted #82, Peaked #1, 19 Weeks on chart)

For all the talk about how there was a country "revival" that resulted from the success of the film Urban Cowboy in 1980, those critics obviously weren't paying attention. Just five years earlier, there was a big country/pop crossover movement, with six songs that topped both charts. "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was one of those six singles and John Denver notched two of them ("I'm Sorry"/"Calypso" was the other).

While identified solidly with John Denver, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was actually written by his fiddle player and guitarist John Sommers. Fittingly (since it was penned by a fiddler and mentioned the instrument in its lyrics), it featured a very noticeable fiddle solo in its instrumental bridge. Originally, the song was an album cut on Denvers' 1974 Back Home Again LP, but wasn't issued as a single until it appeared in his live album An Evening With John Denver a year later. Placed in a live setting, the performance was one of the most memorable of Denver's career.

Ramsey Lewis and Earth, Wind and Fire - "Sun Goddess" Sun Goddess (feat. Special Guest Soloist Ramsey Lewis) - Sun Goddess

(Debuted #84, Peaked #44, 7 Weeks on chart)

During the late 1960s, Maurice White was the drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio and performed on nine of that band's albums. So when Lewis looked to branch out in a different direction during the 1970s, he called on his old friend, who was then leading a new group called Earth, Wind & Fire. Together, they recorded an LP called Sun Goddess that was Lewis's biggest-selling album in a decade.

The album's title track was essentially an instrumental that featured Lewis on the electric piano and the members of Earth, Wind & Fire performing their own instruments. Don Myrick gets in a nice saxophone solo, stretching out a little more in the jazz genre than EW&F's records usually allowed him to. There are also vocals heard throughout the song, but they're scat-like words, rather than the lines of a standard lyric.

If you're a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire but not acquinted with this song, check it out. Their accompaniment on a jazz tune is really in keeping with their later funk-based material.

Gloria Gaynor - "Reach Out, I'll Be There" Reach Out (I'll Be There) - Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive: The Anthology

(Debuted #86, Peaked #60, 5 Weeks on chart)

"Reach Out, I'll Be There" was best known for being a classic Motown tune written by the label's team of Holland/Dozier/Holland, which hit #1 for the Four Tops in 1966. Merilee Rush and Diana Ross also charted with different-styled versions in the meantime, but Gloria Gaynor gave the song a disco treatment that seemed to be inevitable in 1975.

This version was part of what is called the first "Megamix," a common concept over the years but first introduced along with "Honey Bee" and "Never Can Say Goodbye" on the first side of Gaynor's debut LP Never Can Say Goodbye. Presented together in a 19-minute suite, the three songs were mixed by Tom Moulton as an extended dance track with no interruptions. The idea of an album-length "song" really wasn't new (Jethro Tull had taken two album-length compositions to #1 on the LP charts and they weren't even pioneers), but it was significant as the first to appear in a dance genre.

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - "Bad Luck (Part 1)" Bad Luck - The Ultimate Blue Notes

(Debuted #88, Peaked #15, 17 Weeks on chart)

Here's a song that proves the point that presentation is everything in a song. Take the lyrics of "Bad Luck," for instance. The singer is explaining about having a bad time (using the second person, so it's not coming off as a personal account), where the house is being foreclosed, the woman is gone, playing the "lucky" number turned out to be lucky for the bookie. By the end, Teddy Pendergrass is even rapping -- in the old sense of that word -- about Nixon quitting, but asserting his ambivalence about whether it will bring about any real change for those who are down and out.

With all the negative vibes of the lyrics, you might never even realize the guy's feeling any pain. Not with MFSB's expert musical accompaniment behind him. They cut a fairly deep groove, and when Pendergrass takes the podium to testify, you're ready to give him an "Amen!" It helps explain the allure of church to many people, and he's not even doing this as a gospel song.

In addition to its Top 20 pop showing, "Bad Luck" was a Top 10 R&B hit and spent a record 11 weeks at #1 on the Disco chart. The writer/production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff was able to take a song about one man's troubles and set it to a beat that got people to want to dance. If that doesn't make "Bad Luck" a quintessential 1970s song, you'd be hard pressed to explain why.

Donna Fargo - "It Do Feel Good" (Original Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #98, Peaked #98, 2 Weeks on chart)

"It Do Feel Good" was the final song that Donna Fargo took onto the Hot 100, and wasn't able to last very long on the chart. However, it went into the Top 10 on the country chart, where Fargo was able to continue charting into the early 1990s.   

An uptempo song about the euphoria that accompanies love, "It Do Feel Good" may be grammatically correct, but it certainly showcases Fargo's North Carolina accent. It was one of several songs that Fargo sang that was devotional and was likely a reflection of her marriage to Stan Silver...who was also her producer and manager.

Solomon Burke - "You And Your Baby Blues" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #99, Peaked #96, 2 Weeks on chart)

When Solomon Burke signed with Chess Records in 1975, his first LP for the new label was called Music to Make Love By. He was clearly treading the same territory owned by Barry White, even starting off "You and Your Baby Blues" with a half-whispered spoken vocal, just as White had been doing to to make a name for himself over the previous two years. However, while Burke was able to hold his own on a soul record, he wasn't going to outdo Barry White.

"You and Your Baby Blues" was Burke's final appearance on the Hot 100, ending a run that began in 1961. He continued to record music afterwards, switching labels at will and releasing new material right up until his death in 2010.  

Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners - "Where Have They Gone" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #100, Peaked #100, 1 Week on chart)

"Where Have They Gone" was The Skyliners' first single since 1965. They had previously charted a handful of times from 1959 through '64, including three Top 40 hits. A nostalgia craze that renewed many 1950s acts had brought many groups back into the spotlight, and four of the original Skyliners agreed to reunite in 1974. However, they didn't want to be relegated to the "oldies" circuit and agreed to do new material based on their familiar style. And with "Where Have They Gone," they went with a song that was written by a songwriter from the same era as their glory days, Doc Pomus.

A mournful ballad that asks where the past has gone, and not necessarily about a departed friend (though that might be a metaphorical understanding anyway, as the mention of seasons can be interpreted as a type of physical passing), it is punctuated by the a piano, the swelling string arrangement, a trumpet call and the sound of a beach at the end. In a way, it is also an epitaph for group member Janet Vogel, who committed suicide in 1980. This would be her final appearance on the Hot 100.  

When "Where Have They Gone" debuted an peaked at #100, it established an unusual chart "first;" Jimmy Beaumont had peaked at #100 with his solo single "Ev'rybody's Cryin" in 1961, and now had accomplished the feat as part of a group.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rewind -- March 18, 1972

(This is part of a series I run here every Wednesday. I take an entry from the first year of this blog and update it.)

Of eleven new singles debuting on the Billboard Hot 100, nearly half made the Top 40. Two of those five would become Top 10 hits. This is another one of those weeks where you'd have been hard pressed even then to find a radio station that would have comfortably played every one of the songs listed. The singles run the gamut from soul to hard rock, country to classical(ish), singer/songwriter introspection to gospel influence, and folksy to rock & roll revivalist. In all, an interesting list.

Many past issues of Billboard are available online to view for free through Google Books. The March 18, 1972 issue can be found here. The full Hot 100 list is on page 58, while an interview with longtime DJ Charlie Tuna has a neat interview on page 26. He had just been cut loose by Los Angeles station KHJ and speaks about his situation, his feelings about working for Bill Drake and his views on the industry. As a former radio DJ, I found the piece fascinating. Growing up, I remember Tuna filling in for some of the weekend shows I used to listen to, like Casey Kasem's American Top 40. Speaking of Kasem, his picture appears in an ad on page 27, encouraging stations to become affiliates for that show. Finally, a warning: if you have children or are wasting time at work...try and avoid the advertisement on page 34, which features a topless woman.

Aretha Franklin - "Day Dreaming" Aretha Franklin - The Very Best of Aretha Franklin - The 70's - Day Dreaming

(Debuted #58, Peaked #5, 12 Weeks on chart)

Aretha Franklin's heyday was likely the late 1960s when you look at her singles, but it can also be argued that -- album-wise -- the early 1970s were a strong period for her as well. Perhaps one of her strongest studio LPs was Young, Gifted and Black, which contained five songs that not only charted on the Billboard Hot 100, but also reached the Top 10 on its soul chart. Of all those songs, "Day Dreaming" was the highest charting. It reached #5 on the pop chart and #1 soul.

While an instrumental backdrop of flute and horns provide a "dreamy" setting, Aretha's lyrics express devotion to her man and her willingness to be with him. While never coming right out and saying so, it's understood that her daydreaming is also carnal in nature. Its sensual nature makes the song a mature take on Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him," updated for a new decade. Only this time she's got her own reasons for following him.

Jackson Browne - "Doctor My Eyes" Jackson Browne - Jackson Browne - Doctor My Eyes

(Debuted #80, Peaked #8, 12 Weeks on chart)

By the early 1970s, many singer/songwriters who specialized in personal, introspective music that was both intimate and sensitive. Among the most remembered of these was Jackson Browne, who had been writing songs for others since he was fresh out of high school and finally releasing his first album in early 1972. He would be more of a fan favorite and critical darling than a chart juggernaut, however: His first three albums sold well but didn't make Top 10 on the LP charts and his first single, "Doctor My Eyes" would be his only Top 10 single of the 1970s.

A song about having grown up and becoming numb to the process of life, there are a couple of things that stand out musically. First is the odd piano part that has what sounds like a dissonant note at the end. According to legend, Browne practiced on a piano that had a stuck key and when a note was hit, another key would sound a half-second later. The sound stuck with him and he used it for the song. Second, there's a memorable guitar solo by Jesse Ed Davis. Additionally, David Crosby and Graham Nash are credited with background harmonies. Not a bad choice for a debut single, and one of Browne's most recognized tunes.

The Soul Children - "Hearsay"  The Soul Children - Stax 50 - 50th Anniversary Celebration - Hearsay

(Debuted #94, Peaked #44, 11 Weeks on chart)

The Soul Children was a two man, two-woman vocal group from Memphis and a part of the roster at Stax Records from 1968 until the label went bankrupt. Specializing in songs about adultery, they were a decent but overlooked R&B group. They were formed by Isaac Hayes and David Porter to help fill the void when Stax lost the services of Sam & Dave. Though the band broke up by the end of the 1970s, its two male singers still perform as solo artists.

As a song, "Hearsay" plays out like an argument between two spouses when one's accusing the other of infidelity. While the lyrics are told from the husband's point of view, the middle break features a discussion between him and his "wife" that sounds a lot like a marital spat. The lyrics mention that the wife's best friend Shirley, who's been telling her that her man's been playing around. He asserts that Shirley has been making moves on him and he's been able to fend off her advances. Somehow, she doesn't buy it and is sick of hearing the gossip. This would have been a great 1967 soul song: the Memphis Horns are vibrant, Steve Cropper's guitar licks are sublime and the interaction between John Colbert and Anita Lewis evokes Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. However, a great 1967-type soul song came off sounding stale in 1972 and the song missed the Top 40.

Nilsson - "Jump Into The Fire" Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson - Jump Into the Fire

(Debuted #87, Peaked #27, 9 Weeks on chart)

There's a scene in the 1990 film Goodfellas that takes place in 1980. Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) is making a trip in his car to pick up drugs from his dealer and to drop off some guns. While he's in a cocaine-induced paranoia he watches a police helicopter flying above him, tracking his movement. As the scene unfolds, the song "Jump into the Fire" plays in the background in two different parts. It's somehow perfect for the film's setting.

Harry Nilsson had just had the biggest hit of his career ("Without You") and released "Jump into the Fire" as a followup. For fans attracted to the lovely melody and lyric of the first hit, the new single might have come as a surprise because they couldn't be much more different. "Jump into the Fire" was a rocking tune with a different type of emotion altogether. In fact, the entire Nilsson Schmilsson LP was likely a surprise to fans who bought it on the strength of  "Without You."

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - "Nut Rocker" Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures At an Exhibition - Nutrocker

(Debuted #100, Peaked #70, 6 Weeks on chart)

This electronic interpretation of "The March of the Wooden Soldiers" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite is commonly attributed to the progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer but had earlier been a minor U.S. hit (and U.K. #1 single) by B. Bumble & The Stingers in 1962. A live recording, the song was taken from a 1971 show in Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and closed out the LP Pictures at an Exhibition.

While occasional live performances manage to break into the U.S. Top 40 and a few classical-themed tunes (like "Joy" by Apollo 100 and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Deodato) could become surprise hits, this one had a rather tepid reaction. It stalled at #70, well short of the #23 peak of the 1962 original. As for ELP, they were more successful as an album act than for their singles because their progressive style and classical influences were better served by a full LP than a 3-minute cut.

Led Zeppelin - "Rock And Roll" Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered) - Rock and Roll

(Debuted #77, Peaked #47, 7 Weeks on chart)

"Rock and Roll" is one of Led Zeppelin's best-known songs. And for a song with such a simple title, the music doesn't disappoint the listener. From its propulsive beat, to John Paul Jones matching Bonzo's beat with his bass, Jimmy Page's blistering guitar work and Robert Plant's words coming out like he had just thought them up. In fact, legend has it that the song was concocted in the studio from a rehearsal session and within fifteen minutes the song's framework was complete. All four band members are listed as composers, which gives some creedence to that story. The lyrics give a nod to the rock & roll songs from the 1950s and 60s, mentioning "The Stroll" and "Book of Love."

For nearly four decades, fans have argued about the name of the LP that contained "Rock and Roll." Most commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, it's also known as Runes because of the symbols representing the members of the band. Over the years, Atlantic catalogs have also listed it as Four Symbols and The Fourth Album. Occasionally, it's also been called Untitled and Zoso, after the one legible symbol. When issued, the band members decided to release it without a name. In interviews, some especially Jimmy Page) have referred to it as "The fourth album." Although the confusion was purely intentional, nobody denies that it's a classic album.

Canned Heat - "Rockin' With The King" Canned Heat - The Very Best of Canned Heat - Rockin' With the King (2005 Remaster)

(Debuted #99, Peaked #88, 5 Weeks on chart)

After a song called "Rock and Roll" that tipped its hat to past influences, this song went one better: While music evoking 1950s-era rock & roll fueled the track, Canned Heat singer Bob "Bear" Hite dueted with one of the men who made some of those great classics, Little Richard. Since Canned Heat was a group founded by two guys deeply influenced by the blues, it may have been a great experience; however, one of those two founding members (Alan Wilson) had died in 1970. While the band was trying to remain vital in a business where there was no shortage of white guys who loved the blues, doing a song that sounded like it belonged in a rock & roll revival show might not have been a wise career move. It would be the group's final Hot 100 entry, even though the band remains together today and survived the 1981 death of Hite (the other founding member).

It's a shame the song wasn't a bigger hit, though. It was a lot of fun to listen to.

Jo Jo Gunne - "Run Run Run" Jo Jo Gunne - Rhino Hi-Five: Jo Jo Gunne - EP - Run Run Run

(Debuted #90, Peaked #27, 11 Weeks on chart)

While this was the only hit listed for the group Jo Jo Gunne,the band was formed by former members of the group Spirit and was led by Jay Ferguson, who had a million-selling single "Thunder Island" later in the decade. "Run Run Run," the band's best-known song, contained a stellar guitar groove. While the lyrics are sparse -- there's a lot of repetition of the word "run" and few lines beyond that -- and seem to indicate somebody's running from the Fuzz, the instrumental content makes it seem like they're having a hell of a time doing it. It's not complicated at all, which is part of what makes the song work.

Confession time...while doing this blog, I've often come across songs I've known for years but somehow had the words all wrong. Call it a "Kiss This Guy" moment for me if you will. In the final verse of "Run Run Run" there's a line that goes "oh, welcome to the party, we're all just papers in the wind." For years, I had misheard the line as "we're all just pickles in the wind." Which made no sense but as I mentioned before, the words weren't what hooked me on the song.

PG&E - "Thank God For You Baby"

(Debuted #98, Peaked #97, 2 Weeks on chart)

After a few hits as Pacific Gas & Electric, the group shortened its name to initials for this song that ended up being their final hit single. It seems the California-based utility company had asked the group to change its name or face the wrath of their attorneys, but the possibility of litigation wasn't troubling the band as much as its revolving membership. By 1972, the group's lineup was very different from the one they featured on their breakthrough 1970 hit "Are You Ready?" Only drummer/singer Charlie Allen was left from those days. After "Thank God For You Baby" dropped from the charts, the band continued to be unstable and would disintegrate by 1973.

"Thank God For You Baby" -- as the title implies -- is a song that has a gospel feel, complete with a female chorus, church organ and what sounds like a small upright piano. As the vocalist breaks out like a preacher on some of his lines, it seems all that's missing is the voices of parishioners testifying from the congregation. While the idea of equating the love of a woman with religious fervor wasn't a new concept by any means, it had already been done much better by others.

Jerry Wallace - "To Get To You" Jerry Wallace - Jerry Wallace's Greatest Hits - To Get to You

(Debuted #97, Peaked #48, 12 Weeks on chart)

While I've made little secret in past entries about my deep adoration and respect for country music, I do have some limits. While I love the musical virtuosity many of the genre's instrumentalists possess and the pure (some call it "authentic") sound of many of its singers, I am more a fan of the honky-tonk sound and less willing to sit through some of the songs done by crooners. That rule isn't necessarily set in stone; I am a fan of George Jones and Conway Twitty -- who've done their share of crooning -- but both had other styles that didn't corner them into that type of singing. In the case of Jerry Wallace, his delivery shows why what is considered "classic country" tends more toward the hard-livin', hard-drinkin' songs and many smooth-voiced love ballads are largely forgotten.

Jerry Wallace and Charlie Rich both traveled similar paths. Both started out doing rockabilly-tinged pop in the late 1950s and matured into a country-influenced sound. Both were doing country/pop crossovers in the early 1970s. However, Rich's influence was more rooted in R&B and his delivery was often seen as more real, even if Wallace's velvet-smooth voice might have been more rich. His performance of "To Get to You" was pitch-perfect and probably heartfelt and sincere, but it didn't have the same emotion Rich brought to a song like "Behind Closed Doors" or "A Very Special Love Song" that covered a similar topic. Therefore, Rich is remembered while Wallace has largely been forgotten even among country fans.

Don McLean - "Vincent" Don McLean - American Pie - Vincent  b/w "Castles In The Air" Don McLean - Tapestry - Castles In the Air

(Debuted #78, Peaked #12, 12 Weeks on chart)

Sinced this is a two-sided single, I really need to feature the B-side as well:

"American Pie" was such a big hit -- both as a multi-week #1 smash and as a long-running song -- Don McLean had to follow it up with two sides on his next single. That's only partially true; during the single's stay on the Hot 100, "Vincent" was listed alone when it debuted but "Castles in the Air" would be added to the listing during its sixth week on the survey. It's likely enough listeners and disc jockeys flipped the disc over to make the B-side worthy of hit status as well.

McLean wrote "Vincent" to honor Vincent Van Gogh, a man who is considered a great artist today but was barely noticed during his own lifetime. His lack of recognition during his lifetime is what led to lyrics like "they didn't listen, they did not know how...perhaps they'll listen now." References are made to Van Gogh's mental health ("suffered for your sanity") and his suicide. Elements of his artwork are also referenced in the lyrics: starry night, trees and daffodils, morning fields of amber grain. I didn't know any of that when I first heard the song as a kid, but the abstract, seemingly scattershot references interested me enough to find out more.

The single's B-side wasn't included with "Vincent"on the American Pie LP but on McLean's previous album Tapestry(released before the iconic Carole King LP). When it was first released, that record was warmly received by critics but sold poorly. After "American Pie" was a surprise hit, fans eager to hear more bought enough copies of Tapestry to send it into Billboard's album chart. The renewed interest led United Artists to place the lead track from that LP as the B-side of the next single. Accompanied by a folk-influenced acoustic guitar, McLean's words express the feeling of not belonging and he desire to go back to a more simple life. Elegant and straightforward despite its wordiness, the only thing that doesn't seem right is that he's asking somebody else to say goodbye for him. It's a great song.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This Week's Review -- March 16, 1974

There were nine new singles debuting in the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with six eventually reaching the Top 40. However, five of those ended up in the Top 10, making this a very potent list. And why not? Considering the list included new songs by Chicago, Cat Stevens, The Jackson 5, Joni Mitchell and Three Dog Night, many of the era's most popular acts were aboard. The songs that missed the Top 40 weren't exactly slouches either, coming from Neil Diamond, The Temptations and Cozy Powell (not a big name, but a very respected drummer). The last song on the list is a returning hit that had already been a hit in 1955, but placement in a movie and then a TV show brought it back into the Top 40.

Although there is a large archive of past issues of Billboard over at Google Books, the March 16, 1974 edition is missing from the archives. Instead, I'll once again refer to my other regular music blog, 80s Music Mayhem, which runs new posts every weekday. Over there, I just finished a week's worth of songs from 1984. If you're into 1980s music at all, be sure to check it out.

Unlimited Music, Everywhere. Try Rdio for Free.

The Jackson 5 - "Dancing Machine" Dancing Machine (Single Version) - Dancing Machine / Moving Violation

(Debuted #79, Peaked #2, 22 Weeks on chart)

When The Jackson 5 sent four straight singles to #1 and then followed with a pair of #2 hits, they had one of the greatest debuts in history. However, they never managed to reach those heights again until 1974, when they embraced the new, rising trend of "dance" music that would soon blossom into Disco. While performing "Dancing Machine" live, Michael would break out into "The Robot" (as he does in the clip above) during the instrumental bridge, showing the flair for dancing that he would make his trademark for the rest of his life.

It was the Jackson brothers' last big hit with Motown before the lure of more money and creative freedom lured most of them over to Epic. It would spend two weeks lodged at #2, kept out of the top spot by another song that was about a 1970s trend ("The Streak"), albeit a more passing fad.

Chicago - "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long" (I've Been) Searchin' So Long - Chicago VII

(Debuted #80, Peaked #9, 15 Weeks on chart)

While their "regular" lead singer Peter Cetera handled the lead vocals on "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long," the lyrics took a more introspective direction than many of the the hits that Cetera wrote did. That is because it was written by another group member, James Pankow, who also contributed backing vocals to the song. Pankow's main contribution to Chicago's "sound" was his brass arrangement (which is quite evident here), but he was also one of the band's main songwriters.

It would be the first of three fairly big hits off the Chicago VII LP, which helped cement their "new" direction away from the side-length suites and jazz/rock fusion jams of their earlier albums and moved to a slicker production and songs that were more tailor-made for pop radio. Though the change definitely brought them more fame and prosperity, critics began asking whether the direction was good for their music. It's a question they're still debating today.

Neil Diamond - "Skybird" Skybird - Jonathan Livingston Seagull

(Debuted #84, Peaked #75, 4 Weeks on chart)

One of the phenomena that seemed to only be able to manifest itself during the 1970s was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It was originally a short novel in 1970 and featured a message of self-assurance in the story of a seagull who learns to love flying. Many saw it as a metaphor -- some said religious, others said it was nothing more than "pyscho-babble" -- and a movie seemed to be inevitable once it became an established craze. And when the movie (which featured no human actors that were on the screen) came out, the action was accompanied by several Neil Diamond songs as its soundtrack. 

Diamond's soundtrack ended up grossing more money than the film did. Setting a story that followed a seagull didn't bring Diamond a hit bonanza -- "Be" made the lower reaches of the Top 40 but "Skybird" fell far short -- but it kept Diamond on the radio until he was ready to start cranking out more MOR-friendly tunes later that year.

Joni Mitchell - "Help Me" Help Me - Court and Spark

(Debuted #87, Peaked #7, 19 Weeks on chart)

Joni Mitchell is a well-renowned singer/songwriter, one whose influence doesn't equate to a large number of hit singles. For instance, "Help Me" is the only Top 10 pop single she ever managed to have under her own name, but other artists have scored with songs she wrote like "Both Sides Now," "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock." Her songs have been widely covered, and she's been named as an influence by hundreds of performers who followed her.  

"Help Me" was a track from Court and Spark, Mitchell's only #1 LP. Its unique sound came from the fact that she recorded it with with the jazz-based band Tom Scott's L.A. Express -- which included Larry Carlton as well as Scott -- instead of a session group that was more of a rock unit. It was apparently written about Eagle Glen Frey, but has been attributed to a few other musicians as seems Joni got around quite a lot at the time.

Cat Stevens - "Oh Very Young" Oh Very Young - Buddha and the Chocolate Box (Remastered)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #10, 17 Weeks on chart)

Although Cat Stevens was still a few years away from his conversion to Islam and his exit from the music business, his work always showed signs that he was curious about various religions and leaving behind the excesses of the life he was living. Imagery was a big part of his music, and a statue on the cover of his LP Buddha and the Chocolate Box showed he was still exploring those questions.

"Oh Very Young" was not only Stevens' first Top 10 pop hit in nearly two years, it showed that he was returning to the form that he showed on the record Teaser and the Firecat, which had been his most successful period. A song that looked at the idealism of youth from the perspective of someone who's crossed over into a more cynical or jaded viewpoint, it is a simply stated message that is still fairly well-played today on Adult-oriented radio.

Cozy Powell - "Dance With The Devil" Dance With the Devil - Lost Hits of the 70's

(Debuted #89, Peaked #49, 8 Weeks on chart)

Cozy Powell made a name for himself as a drummer extraordinaire. Although "Dance With the Devil" was his only solo hit single in the U.S., he was a part of several influential groups over the years, such as the Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, MSG, Whitesnake during its pre-hit period and a later incarnation of Black Sabbath. Later on, he took Keith Powell's place in ELP so they could keep the monogram.

Essentially, "Dance With the Devil" is a drum solo accompanied by sparse musical arrangements and chanting. That incantation was lifted largely from The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Third Rock From the Sun" and would later be sampled in Right Said Fred's 1992 hit "I'm Too Sexy." But it's the pounding of the skins that is front and center on the record. Although it ended up falling short of the Top 40 in the U.S., it was a #3 hit in the U.K.

Three Dog Night - "The Show Must Go On" The Show Must Go On - Three Dog Night: The Complete Hit Singles

(Debuted #90, Peaked #4, 19 Weeks on chart)

Before the words begin to "The Show Must Go On," There is a familiar calliope that usually accompanies the moment when clowns enter the circus. Despite that association brought about by repeated playing, few actually know that the "fun" song was originally written as a military march. Julius Fukic wrote the tune in 1897 as "Entry of the Gladiators" for what was then a regiment of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Just a little fact that came up as I was researching.

"The Show Must Go On" was written by Leo Sayer, who would wear a clown's clothing as he performed it live. One thing that was changed when Three Dog Night recorded it was the final line of the song; they sang "but I must let the show go on" rather than Sayer's "but I can't let the show go on," which gave the entire lyric a different meaning. Sayer evidently wasn't pleased about it, despite the royalty payday he certainly recieved.

"The Show Must Go On" was the 11th Top 10 pop single for Three Dog Night, extending an unbroken streak of Top 40 hits since 1969. They would gain three more Top 40 singles after that, but never reached the Top 10 again.

The Temptations - "Heavenly" Heavenly - The Complete Collection: The Temptations

(Debuted #96, Peaked #43, 9 Weeks on chart)

"Heavenly" was a majestic ballad that showed that The Temptations were still able to shift gears between their socially aware songs and their Psychedelic Soul and showcase the harmonies that brought them to Motown in the first place. However, the album that contained the song -- titled 1990, when that was still a not-too-distant date -- was a mix of all of those different sounds, which came off as uneven.

Although "Heavenly" stopped just short of the pop Top 40, it reached the Top 10 over on the R&B charts. It's been rumored that a perceived slight during an awards show led to DJs refusing to play the song...but a Top 10 showing in the group's target audience doesn't seem to indicate that a boycott of "Heavenly" took place. Not a major one, in any case.

Bill Haley and His Comets - "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" Rock Around the Clock - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Best of Bill Haley & His Comets

(Debuted #99, Peaked #39, 14 Weeks on chart)

Yes, this song is a #1 hit from 1955. In fact, it was the song that was considered to have jump-started what is now known as the "Rock Era" when it knocked Cuban bandleader Perez Prado's "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" off the #1 position in Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores survey. In that era where there were no consolidated "hit" charts, it eventually took the top spot on the Most Played By Jockeys and Most Played in Jukeboxes charts as well, holding the #1 spot in all three simultaneously for the entire month of August that year. More importantly, it was used as the opening theme to the film The Blackboard Jungle, where it cemented itself in the minds of true badasses and "wannabe" delinquents, especially when their parents disapproved of it.

A wave of 1950s nostalgia swept across the nation in the 1970s. After the Vietnam War began to wrap itself up and Watergate replaced it as a staple of news reports, many Americans looked back on the "better days" of the past. That nostalgic feeling is fairly universal (in fact, it fuels this blog), especially for the Baby Boomers who were looking at a nation that seemed so different than it did during their youth. Naturally, "Rock Around the Clock" resurfaced in that wave; it was prominently used in the film American Graffiti and was the theme song to the TV series Happy Days for its first two seasons. 

With its renewed exposure, it was once again issued as a single and re-entered the Top 40.