Saturday, April 28, 2012

This Week's Review -- April 28, 1979

This week, I present the single longest list of songs I've yet attempted on this blog. Seventeen singles make up this list. Of those, eight made the Top 40 and five went into the Top 10. However, unlike some other weeks of 1979 I've written about, this slate actually has a nice variety of styles. Disco is certainly here, but so is a rather wide range of musical styles. It's a rather diverse list in an era that is often unfairly ridiculed for one particular sound.

There is a large archive of Billboard issues stretching back to 1944 at Google Books, including the April 28, 1979 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 96. An article beginning on page 1 tells about how WABC-AM in New York -- long the trend-setter as far as Top 40 radio stations went -- was being forced to change its image in the wake of the Disco juggernaut. That's something that was considered impossible just the previous year.


Kenny Rogers - "She Believes In Me" She Believes In Me - Number Ones

(Debuted #61, Peaked #5, 16 Weeks on chart)

The words to "She Believes in Me" are familiar to any singer or songwriter. While the narrator in the song is busy coming home for a gig or getting up in the middle of the night to hone his craft, his lady is patiently waiting for him to get to bed. The wait isn't sexual in nature; it's just that his companionship has been diverted because of his need to ply his craft. Despite all the promises he's made that his ship will be arriving any day now, that the "big break" is sure to arrive soon, they're still in the process of arriving...someday.

As a writer, I've had plenty of those days, too. The sudden thought in the middle of the night that needs to be written down before it's forgotten and the look of my wife as she walked in to the room and sees I'm busy with one of my projects are quite familiar. That said, it's still a compulsion I do and it'll probably never go away. But the song is about the gratitude for her putting up with that madness.

"She Believes in Me" was Kenny Rogers' fifth #1 country song and its #5 peak tied "Lucille" for his best pop showing to date. The ride was just beginning for him, though, as he rode his hot streak into the next decade.

Sister Sledge - "We Are Family" We Are Family (Single Version) - We Are Family

(Debuted #63, Peaked #2, 19 Weeks on chart)

Baseball fans of the era remember "We Are Family" as the theme song for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. Under the leadership of Willie "Pops" Stargell, the team took an unlikely run into the playoffs and won the World Series over a heavily favored Baltimore Orioles team.

It was also one of the songs that Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards crafted when they weren't busy as part of Chic. Although it comes across as a version of a Chic song with four female vocalists, their style was unique, and their success was undeniable. "We Are Family" is one of the songs that has lasted well into the next millenium as one of the few truly genre-defining records of the era. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, even if it does lend to a degree of overkill.

Rickie Lee Jones - "Chuck E.'s In Love" Chuck E's In Love (LP Version) - Rhino Hi-Five: Rickie Lee Jones

(Debuted #65, Peaked #4, 15 Weeks on chart)

Rickie Lee Jones had a career breakthrough in 1979. She was relatively unknown, but was appearing on "Saturday Night Live," was making the cover of Rolling Stone and winning the Grammy for Best New Artist. There was even some attention given to her unique fashion sense. However, Jones eventually followed her own muse and gravitated more toward the jazz world rather than the safer pop styles. She has continued to follow the beat of her own drum ever since.

Though my young daughter might tell me it's really Chuck E Cheese, the "Chuck E." in the title is fellow singer/songwriter Chuck E. Weiss, who was a friend of Jones and her then-lover Tom Waits. Weiss had been a regular visitor at the place where the two lived in Los Angeles, and then just disappeared one day. When he finally called to tell Waits that he had moved to Denver with a woman. When Waits hung up the phone, he looked at Jones and explained, "Chuck E.'s in love." She loved the phrase and wrote a song around it.

Van Halen - "Dance The Night Away" Dance the Night Away - Van Halen II

(Debuted #68, Peaked #15, 15 Weeks on chart)

Van Halen's debut was a phenomenal success, so the band's record company rushed them into the studio to produce more. As a result, their second LP Van Halen II sounded a lot like their first, since most of the songs had already existed in demo form from their early days or was part of their live set. The exception was "Dance the Night Away," the only cut on the album that was crafted from scratch during the recording sessions.

In concerts, frontman David Lee Roth said that "Dance the Night Away" was written about a woman the group became acquainted with during their days as a bar band. Accoriding to his account, she had gotten caught having sex in the back of a pickup truck while drunk and then ran from the police with her pants on backwards. The song doesn't feature a guitar solo; instead, Eddie Van Halen uses a riff of fret harmonics, showing off yet another tool in his "axe" arsenal.

And it should be noted that -- even though they stuck with their basic style -- any song with the word "dance" in its title was a hot commodity in 1979.

The Beach Boys - "Good Timin'" Good Timin' - M.I.U. Album / L.A. (Light Album)

(Debuted #76, Peaked #40, 10 Weeks on chart)

While The Beach Boys' legacy has established them as a 1960s band and they've often hearkened back to that era in their own music, you'd be forgiven for assuming that "Good Timin'" would be a remake of the 1960 Jimmy Jones hit before giving it a listen. However, it's an original composition by Brian and Carl Wilson.

Though it featured the band's signature vocal harmonies, "Good Timin'" really sounded like it was trying to remind listeners of their past glories. When it was recorded for the band's L.A. (Light Album) LP, Brian Wilson had descended back into his shell and returned to his position or writing music without performing on the records. Unfortunately for the band, 1960s retrospectives were simply being given a disco beat, so this song sounded like they were simply mailing it in.

It did return them to the pop Top 40 for the first time since 1976, but #40 would be as high as they would get. It would be two and a half years before they'd return.

Cheap Trick - "I Want You To Want Me" I Want You to Want Me (Live) - At Budokan (Live)

(Debuted #78, Peaked #7, 19 Weeks on chart)

"I Want You to Want Me" was originally a single from Cheap Trick's second LP In Color. It was released as a single at the time, but never made the national charts in the U.S. However, it was a #1 hit in Japan and their success in that country led to a live concert at Budokan in 1978 that was recorded and released as an album itself. When the band performed "I Want You to Want Me" in front of the Tokyo crowd, they amped it up and gave an electric rendition, which helped the American public realize they were missing out on something the critics could see.

"I Want You to Want Me" was the band's first Top 10 single in the U.S. and broke their career open, though sharper-eared fans clued in on the when they released "Surrender" the year before.

Toto - "Georgy Porgy" Georgy Porgy - Toto

(Debuted #79, Peaked #48, 10 Weeks on chart)

When it was first released, Toto's self-titled debut was enjoyed by their fans and the subject of less-than-complimentary review by critics. Maybe the group's past as a group of studio musicians was an impediment in the critics' eyes, their ability to handle multiple musical styles with ease was seen as an asset to their fans. While the chart performance showed that both sides had some merit ("Hold the Line" was a big hit, but the other two charted singles missed the Top 40), but its safe to say that time has shown that time has proven Toto's value.  

"Georgy Porgy" was the third single from that album and featured a light jazz-inspired improvisational groove. Though written by David Paich, Steve Luthaker handles the lead and Cheryl Lynn inserts the lines from the "Georgy Porgy" nursery rhyme during the chorus. In fact, those lines hit me at the time; I was still young and when I heard the song on the radio (which was only once), I distinctly remember in my six-year old mind wondering what a nursery rhyme was doing playing on an adult radio station.

McFadden and Whitehead - "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now - McFadden & Whitehead

(Debuted #80, Peaked #13, 18 Weeks on chart)

Gene McFadden and John Whitehead are often seen as One-Hit Wonders because they only charted one single on the Hot 100 as performers. However, they had been songwriters before their hit, penning The O'Jays' "Back Stabbers" and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Bad Luck." In the case of "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," the lyrics were crafted out of the writers' hopes for a prosperous future as a new decade approached.

As the years have passed, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" has become an anthem of sorts. That's probably natural, given the hopeful, forward-looking nature of the lyrics. Special versions of the song were recorded for the sports teams in the duo's native Philadelphia (the Phillies and Eagles in 1980, the 76ers in the 2000-'01 season), and boxer Larry Holmes used it as his theme song. It was also used in the film Boogie Nights during the New Year's Eve scene; ironically, just before things began to unravel for the people in that movie.

Sadly, neither McFadden or Whitehead are with us any longer. Whitehead was shot to death on a Philadelphia street in 2004 in what was called a case of mistaken identity, and McFadden lost a two-year battle with cancer in 2006.

The Kinks - "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman - Low Budget (Remastered)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #41, 12 Weeks on chart)

Disco was ubiquitous by 1979, and a lot of established artists came to embrace the genre that might not have been likely to do so in...say, 1977. Paul McCartney or Rod Stewart might not have been such a surprise, KISS was signed to a label that was disco-heavy but The Rolling Stones and The Kinks were guitar-based acts whose roots went back too far to be interested, right? Well, if there's anything that can change a perspective, it's money; whether the money is sought by a band, their managers or their record company, it's still the reason they play.

The Kinks' entry into the Disco realm was "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman," which had a definite dance groove and synthesizer sound effects but didn't skimp on the guitars. Written by Ray Davies in response to the rising cost of living (expressed in all of the different types of bills piling up), it was part of the LP Low Budget, which was crafted around the concept. It was the band's highest-charting album of original material in the U.S. It also showed that a Disco tune could also rock.

The LP version of "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" was three and a half minutes long, but was also available as an extended-length Disco mix (which is featured in the video above).

Raydio - "You Can't Change That" You Can't Change That - Rock On

(Debuted #86, Peaked #9, 22 Weeks on chart)

Ray Parker, Jr. was a teenaged guitar whiz, and being from Detroit opened a lot of doors to him. He was playing professionally while still in high school, then part of Stevie Wonder's touring band, and later a sideman in Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra, and was eager to get out and start his own unit eventually. When he did, he named the group Raydio and scored Top 10 hits with their first two Hot 100 singles.

"You Can't Change That" was the second of those hits. On the song, Parker swaps lines with Arnell Carmichael, who contributes the higher-pitched vocals. A song of devotion that sounds almost like a stalker's explanation of why he's following his victim around, it's a catchy tune that has its own charm despite the fact that it's disturbing when presented in a different light.

Like the 1978 single "Jack & Jill," it would chart in the pop Top 10 and R&B Top 5. It was also the band's first entry on the Adult Contemporary chart as well.

Hair (Original Soundtrack Recording)/Cheryl Barnes - "Easy To Be Hard" (Not Available on iTunes)

Debuted #87, Peaked #64, 7 Weeks on chart

A little warning here: if you click on the video above, it's a clip from the 1979 film Hair, and includes a word that many consider to be bad. So don't click on it if you have anybody around who'll be easily offended.

The movie adaptation of Hair was a little out of place by 1979. While the original play was a celebration of an emerging counterculture, the "tribe" of the movie was relegated to a band of misfits and outcasts. Given a bigger production budget, the makers decided to tinker with what worked on the stage. And they turned it into a morass that made me wish I could have the two hours back when it was over.

That said, the soundtrack probably holds up better when played as a record than it does on the screen even if it doesn't match the quality of the original stage show. The version of "Easy To Be Hard" is sung by Cheryl Barnes, an actress who was working as a hotel maid at the time she was cast in the role of Hud's ex-"old lady." The soulful take of the song ended up being her only chart single.

Exile - "How Could This Go Wrong" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #88, 2 Weeks on chart)

For their final Hot 100 entry, the group Exile actually gives a heavier disco spin than what they gave to their #1 single "Kiss You All Over." It didn't help them on the chart -- it fell out after peaking at its debut position -- but was a more upbeat tune for them.

In 1979, Jimmy Stokely left the group, forcing the band to look for a new singer. Les Taylor would replace him and shared the lead with fellow member J.P. Pennington. Thanks to Taylor's influences in Southern Rock, Exile continued their evolution and morphed into a country band. Actually, that's not entirely true; they had flirted with country in the past as a Kentucky-based band, and the general movement of country music to embrace a "poppier" sound made the transition easier. A couple of the band's songs would be recorded by the group Alabama ("Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get") right when they were one of the hottest acts in the genre and the change was complete. The band scored 10 #1 country songs in the next decade.

Roxy Music - "Dance Away" Dance Away - Manifesto

(Debuted #89, Peaked #44, 9 Weeks on chart)

I wish I could remember who it was. Recently, I watched an interview where the guest (an English lady) was talking about her musical influences, and described Roxy Music's sound as "dancing while sad." It was a perfect description for "Dance Away." I wish I had written down the info, because now I'm not sure if it was a recent interview or something off a vintage YouTube clip. This is what happens when you get older, readers...but I suppose that beats the alternative.

That said, "dancing while sad" doesn't mean that the song itself is sad; rather, it explains that dancing can be a release for the realities of life. For some, that was part of the allure of Disco. In fact, it isn't limited to that sound, it's true for anything that encouraged people to get out and cut a rug on the dance floor, from swing to the twist to electronica.

While only the second single by Roxy Music to chart in the U.S., it was a comeback of sorts for the band in the U.K., returning them to the Top10 there for the first time in more than three years.

The Fabulous Poodles - "Mirror Star" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #91, Peaked #81, 4 Weeks on chart)

The Fabulous Poodles started out simply as The Poodles, a British band fronted by Tony DeMeur. They were known for having a sense of humor in their lyrics (DeMeur was a stand-up comedian in the U.K. after the band split up) and were influenced by groups like The Kinks and The Who. That band's bass player John Entwistle produced their debut LP, and Muff Winwood took over for the record that included "Mirror Star."

In the U.S., their sound tended to get lumped in with the "New Wave" of artists then coming from the U.K. despite their undeniable 1960s rock roots. They broke up in 1980.

Witch Queen - "Bang A Gong" Bang a Gong (Get It On) - Bang a Gong

(Debuted #94, Peaked #68, 6 Weeks on chart)

Once Disco became established by 1976, there was a rush of old songs set to the new beat. There were old pre-rock era songs ("Baby Face," "Cherchez Le Femme," "Chattanooga Choo Choo"), TV themes ("Disco Lucy") and even songs updated by the original artist (Frankie Avalon's "Venus," Esther Williams' "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes"). It was probably only a matter of time when the trend would reach early 70s rock as well.

As many music fans would recognize, "Bang a Gong" is a disco remake of the 1971 T-Rex hit. Although the song is given its original British title, Witch Queen was a band whose members included Canadian singer Heather Gauthier and producer Gino Soccio, with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section keeping time.

Liquid Gold - "My Baby's Baby" My Baby's Baby - Liquid Gold

(Debuted #95, Peaked #45, 9 Weeks on chart)

Liquid Gold was a studio group put together by British producer Adrian Baker and featured Ray Knott and Ellie Hope in its lineup. They managed two hits in the U.S. (the other one, "What's She Got " charted in 1983), but enjoyed a handful of hits in their home country. Their biggest Stateside success was "My Baby's Baby," a song that is fairly true to its time but is still catchy. 

When disco fell from grace later in 1979, most acts associated with the genre were barely heard from again, especially those that were merely made up of studio musicians working under a producer's direction. "Disco," on the other hand, didn't really die out as much as it went "underground" and evolved into the dance/club music of the 1980s. And while Liquid Gold was part of that evolution in the U.K., they fizzled out about the time "What's She Got" was released.

Space - "My Love Is Music" My Love Is Music - Just Blue

(Debuted #96, Peaked #60, 7 Weeks on chart)

Space's sound might seem like just another dance-based groove in the disco era, but it was more of an electronic sound than much disco was. Though "My Love is Music" is little more than faceless singers in front of a sped-up beat, the backing music is done by synthesizers instead of a string section. This direction would figure more prominently with dance music in the next decade, and Space's leader (Monaco-born Didier Marouani) would go on to become a pioneer in the burgeoning electronica scene. 

The confusion with disco would be understandable. It comes from the right timeframe, features a breakdown in the bridge, has a bass line that is undoubtedly influenced by what Bernard Edwards was laying down on Chic records and was released on Casablanca records. That said, it serves as a bridge between the decades, and points toward future trends.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rewind -- April 27, 1974

(This is another one of those posts where this blog looks back at the entries from its first year and tweaks them to conform to its current format.)

Here was a first for this blog. Of the seven songs debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 survey, not a single one would go on to reach the Top 40. I really don't know how many times that happened during the 1970s (or at any time in the history of Billboard), but it's a rare occurrence. In fact, in the nearly three years since this blog began, there has only been one other time this has happened. While some might dismiss such a list because the songs are mostly unfamiliar, I welcome a week like this specifically because those songs are unfamiliar to me. I never know whether I might find something I like.

Past issues of Billboard are available to read online at Google Books. The April 27, 1974 edition is among them. The full Hot 100 can be found on page 52. Among the stories is a piece beginning on page 26 about Dick Clark's return to radio after over a decade away. The Juno Awards (for the Canadian music business) also gets a review over several pages.

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Rick Cunha - "(I'm a) Yo-Yo Man" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #61, 7 Weeks on chart)

Rick Cunha may be unknown to many music fans, but he's a highly regarded guitarist in the bluegrass, Hawaiian steel and Spanish-style genres and enjoys a great deal of respect among his peers. Born in Washington, DC in 1944, his father was 1950s B-movie director Richard Cunha and his grandfather Sonny Cunha, a very popular Hawaiian musician during the early 20th Century. During the 1960s he was a member of the folk-rock group Hearts and Flowers. Later, he was a session musician for artists like Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings. He has written music for others as well. However, with all that under his belt he only managed to get one hit single.

From the lyrics, the Yo-Yo man was a travelin' man, an aimless, free-spirited man who did tricks for the kids at the playground. Today, that might attract some special attention from parents and police, but it was one of several songs expressing a desire to explore the freedom of the road at that time. In addition to Cunha's guitar chops, the song features fiddles, a harmonica and a stomping beat. With those elements, it would be a minor hit on the country chart as well.

Despite its short-lived success on the Hot 100, "Yo-Yo Man" has taken on a life of its own as part of The Smothers Brothers' comedy act. Beginning as a song the duo sang as part of their act, Tommy Smothers has developed a very elaborate yo-yo trick routine that has become a very popular part of their show.

Tower Of Power - "Time Will Tell"  Tower Of Power - The Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years - Time Will Tell

(Debuted #93, Peaked #69, 6 Weeks on chart)

Tower of Power is world-famous for its brass section. Their sound is so distinctive, they are often asked to contribute to songs by many artists that call for horns. Some of their work can be found on albums from a wide variety of musical formats, artists as diverse as Rod Stewart, The Brothers Johnson, Toto, Huey Lewis & the News, Santana, John Lee Hooker, even harder-edged groups like Poison and Aerosmith. What's more, they've been continually performing and touring for more than 40 years.

Despite the demand of their famed horns, the group's peak hitmaking years came when they had the services of Lenny Williams on lead vocals. Williams was an R&B veteran before joining the band and lent a distinct quality when he sang. On "Time Will Tell," his recital is placed on equal footing with the horn section and Williams holds his own. While not as powerful as "So Very Hard to Go" or as funky as "What is Hip," "Time Will Tell" is a great ballad and one of the band's underappreciated gems.

Rick Derringer - "Teenage Love Affair" Rick Derringer - All American Boy - Teenage Love Affair

(Debuted #94, Peaked #80, 5 Weeks on chart)

This was the followup to Rick Derringer's biggest solo hit, the FM rock staple "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" (reviewed here in January 2010). As familiar as that song was, "Teenage Love Affair" faltered quickly and was soon forgotten. It's a shame, as it was a more straightforward rocker and a lot more fun to listen to. A great guitar tune, Derringer gets some help from Joe Walsh, who plays a distorted solo that is faster but not too far removed from the one he did on "Rocky Mountain Way."

As the title suggests, "Teenage Love Affair" is about two kids having fun once the parents leave. After the solo, the lyrics explain that the girl ended up having quite the reputation, but like the dogs that males can be, he didn't seem to worry about it. Perhaps I just explained why the song wasn't that much of a hit; lyrics that discuss casual sex between teenagers in a frank manner probably don't play well in Peoria, the Bible Belt or anywhere else parents were still looking at rock 'n' roll as filth. That always cracked me up, because I seem to recall that teenagers really didn't need rock music to let them know about the natural chemistry that resulted when a boy and girl spent enough time together.

The Undisputed Truth - "Help Yourself" The Undisputed Truth - The Best of Undisputed Truth - Smiling Faces - Help Yourself (Single Version)

(Debuted #97, Peaked #48, 7 Weeks on chart)

The Undisputed Truth sometimes seemed like little more than Norman Whitfield's "other" group, the one who got to enjoy the leftovers after he'd given his best material to The Temptations. That was likely the way it was planned, considering their version of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" received little notice until Whitfield had it redone by the more famous group. However, by 1974, The Temptations were no longer working with Whitfield (who was preparing to leave Motown soon afterward) so The Undisputed Truth was in a position to get better material.

"Help Yourself" had a great funky rhythm and decent vocal interplay, but listening to it might lead one to wonder how it could have been done with Dennis Edwards handling the lead vocal, Eddie Kendricks (or his replacement Damon Harris) on the high part and the rest of the Temptations doing background harmonies. Perhaps the flip side of working with a visionary producer like Whitfield and having the same musicians at their disposal was that they were often unfairly compared to his other projects. So, nearly three years after hitting big with "Smiling Faces Sometimes," the group was still seeking a followup that would place them back in the Top 40. "Help Yourself" wasn't that song, however.

The Crusaders - "Scratch"  The Crusaders - Scratch - Scratch

(Debuted #98, Peaked #81, 6 Weeks on chart)

They had dropped the name "Jazz" from their name in 1971, but The Crusaders were still adept at the style even as they focused more on R&B during the 1970s. Their LP Scratch was recorded live at The Roxy in Los Angeles, and the title song was its only single to reach the Hot 100. As an instrumental piece of straight jazz, it's little wonder the song didn't reach farther into the pop charts (though that is no excuse). While jazz is an underappreciated form among fans of other genres, it's still no excuse for listening to a great band in its element. The saxophone solo by Wilton Felder that dominates much of the record is top-notch and the piano work is superb.

Paper Lace - "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" (Not available as MP3)*

(Debuted #99, Peaked #96, 3 Weeks on chart)

My website has been online since 2000. Over the years, I've gotten emails that corrected errors I've made in the listings. Since the site was very data-intensive and I was a one-man crew entering the info -- often at late hours -- there are surely going to be some errors there. However, this song has been the source of a few emails from well-meaning visitors explaining either that "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" was a song by Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods and that the #96 peak had to be wrong since it was a big hit. Yes, Donaldson and company did have a huge hit with the song, but it was a hit by Paper Lace first.

Paper Lace was a group from Nottingham, England. When they recorded "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" they took it to #1 in their home country; however, before they could get rights to a release in the U.S., the song had already been cut by Donaldson's group. That version was already on the Hot 100 before Paper Lace could get listed and went all the way to the top. Paper Lace only managed to reach #96 before being forgotten. Fortunately, they were able to bounce back with their next single, "The Night Chicago Died."

As a song from 1974, "Billy" is often considered a reaction to the Vietnam War. That would make a great deal of sense, as the memories of that conflict were still fresh. Also, the story of the soldier dying in action along with military-style marching drums and wind instruments that sounded like Revolutionary-era fifes underscored the belief. However, the song had been written by two Englishmen with the U.S. Civil War in mind (American soldiers weren't wearing blue uniforms to 'Nam). Though the two songs are quite similar, one major difference between Paper Lace's original and the hit version is the presence of a female voice in the chorus.

* - while there are MP3s available through iTunes and Amazon, it seems what is available are versions that have been re-recorded well after the hit single. Therefore, I decided not to link to them.

The Love Unlimited Orchestra - "Rhapsody in White"  Love Unlimited Orchestra - Rhapsody In White - Rhapsody In White

(Debuted #100, Peaked #63, 8 Weeks on chart)

The "White" in the song title is a play on the name of the man behind The Love Unlimited Orchestra: Barry White, whose career in 1974 could only be described as "white" hot. Having just come off a #1 instrumental hit with "Love's Theme," White followed it up with the title song off the Rhapsody in White LP but it wasn't as much of a hit. Another instrumental, it wasn't quite as romantic as its predecessor but still was worthy of some more spins than it ended up getting.

Like the previous hit, White arranged lush strings but some great guitar work is given the spotlight. In a way, it was another example of how Barry White was an early innovator of the disco sound by using orchestration that would be a standard component of that genre before others thought of using it. Ironically, the monster he helped to create ended up devouring him. Once he began actually doing disco music, his career begin its decline. As an innovator of his own sound, he was unparalleled; once he followed the trend, it sank him.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This Week's Review -- April 17, 1976

There were ten singles debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, and seven made it into the Top 40. Four of those reached into the Top 10 and one went to the #1 position. That chart-topper was also a #1 R&B tune, and a #1 country tune is in the list as well. While many of the bigger hits exemplify the pop sound of 1976, one of the songs that just missed the Top 40 is an interesting listen.

There is a large archive of Billboard magazines to read over at Google Books, but the April 17, 1976 edition is missing. So, I'll once again go into shameless promotion mode and recommend my other music-related blog 80s Music Mayhem, which just cycled through the decade once more. For the sixth time, 1989 was featured this 1980 is on deck once more.

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Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three - "One Piece at a Time" One Piece At a TIme - The Essential Johnny Cash (1955-1983)

(Debuted #71, Peaked #29, 10 Weeks on chart)

This week's review kicks off with quite a yarn. In "One Piece at a Time," Johnny Cash tells a story about an autoworker in Detroit who puts wheels on Cadillacs. After watching the cars rolling out, he comes up with a plan to take assorted car parts home from the factory until he could have his own. So, he spaces the operation out for more than 20 years and ends up with a car that looks like it was assembled by Dr. Frankenstein. While the song is technically an account of workplace theft, it's one of the many songs in a humorous vein that Cash would record over the years.

"One Piece at a Time" was written by Wayne Kemp and became the 13th song that Cash would take to #1 on the country chart. Sadly, it would also be his final one, as the changing tastes of Nashville pushed him out of the country mainstream despite a long history of crossover success by Cash. Though he continued to record and chart through his death in 2003, this would be the last of his 45 pop hits.

The Doobie Brothers - "Takin' It To The Streets" Takin' It to the Streets - Takin' It to the Streets

(Debuted #72, Peaked #13, 14 Weeks on chart)

"Takin' it to the Streets" established a new direction for The Doobie Brothers. It was the band's first single with a lead vocal by Michael McDonald, who also wrote the song. McDonald had stepped in to help the group when Tom Johnston suffered health issues that took him off the road, but when the illness lingered, he stayed on. As a result, the band's focus shifted from the guitar-driven rock of their earlier period toward a more adult contemporary and "blue-eyed soul" sound.

Despite the change, they continued selling records, with the album Takin' it To the Streets continuing the band's platinum streak. The title song was inspired by Motown and soul, which is evident in the gospel-style call-and-response chorus. The lyrics embody brotherhood, which is always a good thing but especially so from a multi-racial band. It was a reminder that the "brothers" in the group name weren't the fraternal type; the relationship was more spiritual.

Hot Chocolate - "Don't Stop It Now" Don't Stop It Now - Man to Man

(Debuted #80, Peaked #42, 6 Weeks on chart)

When most listeners (most American listeners, that is) think of Hot Chocolate, attention usually focuses on "You Sexy Thing," Emma" and maybe "Every 1's a Winner." However, that leaves out other worthwhile hits the group had, including "So You Win Again" and "Don't Stop it Now."

The latter song is an unexpected gem for fans who haven't heard it. While Errol Brown's vocal performance sounds much like it does on many of the band's hits and the string section sounds like they're still playing from the sheet music to "You Sexy Thing," the song's main riff comes from a bass and pulls the song along. It's a funkier tune than it was probably meant to be, and is definitely catchy enough to stay with the listener after the song has stopped playing.

The J. Geils Band - "Where Did Our Love Go" Where Did Our Love Go (Live) - Best of the J. Geils Band

(Debuted #81, Peaked #68, 6 Weeks on chart)

"Where Did Our Love Go" was familiar to most music fans in 1976, especially the Baby Boomers who were then just growing into their adult lives. Written by Holland/Dozier Holland in 1964, it was the first of The Supremes' 12 #1 singles. For groups like The J. Geils Band who grew up on Motown and soul classics, it was a natural choice for their live setlist. Not only was it familiar to their fans, but it was a reminder of the "good old days" before things like bills, responsibilities and kids (in some cases) got in the way.

The funny thing about the song is that The Supremes -- still unproven at that point -- were originally less than thrilled about the recording it. However, the success of that single helped establish them as one of Motown's premier acts and they eventually changed their minds. As for the J. Geils version, they do it in the same style they used on their stage show: more blues-based and with less of the studio tricks used in the original. This time, they weren't trying to attract a wider audience. For the band, they'd wait until the next decade before doing that.

Seals and Crofts - "Get Closer" Get Closer - Rhino Hi-Five: Seals & Crofts - EP

(Debuted #82, Peaked #6, 26 Weeks on chart)

For a band as closely associated with a religious movement as Seals & Crofts, it's interesting to point out that their three biggest hits all peaked at #6. However, three sixes is something associated with Christianity, and since Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were followers of the Baha'i faith, that doesn't count. Of those three hits, "Get Closer" spent more time in the pop Top 10.

In keeping with their habit of performing songs that affirmed their own faith, "Get Closer" was a song about togetherness. Featuring a soulful guest vocal by former Honey Cone member Carolyn Willis, it was definitely one of their most memorable tunes. It would also be the last time the duo would reach the pop Top 10.

Gary Wright - "Love Is Alive" Love Is Alive - The Dream Weaver

(Debuted #83, Peaked #2, 27 Weeks on chart)

Gary Wright scored a pair of #2 singles in 1976 from the LP The Dream Weaver, and "Love is Alive" was the second of them. Both songs were wildly successful, but neither one seemed to have that extra something to get past "December 1963" or "Disco Lady" -- in the case of "Dream Weaver" -- or "Kiss and Say Goodbye" or "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." All are classic singles, but really, either of these Gary Wright songs could have sneaked into the #1 spot for a single week, Billboard. Anyway, off the soapbox...

"Love is Alive" is a funkier, less ethereal song than "Dream Weaver" was, though both singles featured an otherworldly (for the time that is) synthesizer score. In fact, both songs were among the first hits to feature just keyboards and drums. They may have been solidly rooted as 1970s music, but they pointed the way towards much of the music from the next decade to anybody who was already tired of hearing the din of the Disco beat. But that's 20/20 hindsight, I suppose.

Heart - "Crazy On You" Crazy On You - Dreamboat Annie

(Debuted #86, Peaked #35, 13 Weeks on chart)

Heart's first hit was a cut off their LP Dreamboat Annie, but a dispute between the group and its record company (Mushroom) caused them to leave for Portrait records in 1977. By 1978, Mushroom Records was trying to get as much money out of Heart as possible so they re-released "Crazy on You" as a single in advance of the LP Magazine that was at the heart -- pun intended -- of the dispute with the company. It didn't do as well the second time around, missing the Top 40 but it didn't stop the song from remaining one of the group's best-known tunes.

Beginning as an acoustic guitar solo, a blistering guitar riff takes the song to Ann Wilson's lyrics. Beginning with little more than a whisper, she builds to a crescendo where her delivery of the chorus near the end of the song is nearly maddening. All the while, the music fuels the fire. It was an interesting song in its day, as female singers generally weren't as hard-edged. There were exceptions to the rule (like Fancy or Patti Smith), but by early 1978 Janis Joplin was dead, The Runaways couldn't get a break and punk bands hadn't yet gained a toehold on American radio. The 1980s would see more female acts that weren't afraid to crank up the volume (Pat Benatar, The Go-Go's, ex-Runaway Joan Jett, among others) so Heart was a trailblazer in that respect.

Starbuck - "Moonlight Feels Right" Moonlight Feels Right - Moonlight Feels Right

(Debuted #90, Peaked #3, 22 Weeks on chart)

To many who remember the era, "Moonlight Feels Right" is a song that exemplified the Summer of '76. JB over at the blog The Hits Just Keep on Comin' wrote this about the song last year, but has frequently written about the effect the record had on him. In fact, this list of "time capsule" songs he presents from that summer includes three songs on this week's list of debuts.

If anything, "Moonlight Feels Right" is a song about a southern summer night (fittingly, as Starbuck was from Atlanta) and featured a marimba solo that is often mistaken for a xylophone. Starbuck's later songs incorporated the instrument as well, but they'd never manage to recapture the magic that sent it to #3. For the time, it seemed that the stars were definitely aligned for Starbuck.

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - "Tell The World How I Feel About 'cha Baby" Tell the World How I Feel About 'Cha Baby - Wake Up Everybody

(Debuted #96, Peaked #94, 2 Weeks on chart)

Teddy Pendergrass often came across as a preacher giving a sermon when he sang. That is an interesting contradiction of the subject matter he was famous for singing...which usually wasn't lauded by the preacher but dismissed as sin. And as "Tell the World How I Feel About 'cha Baby" gets started, there's Teddy exhorting the crowd like he's about to testify, and then switches gears into the worship of the female form. I guess it's another way of paraphrasing a different 1970s classic: "If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)."

However, it doesn't take long for the song to develop into a full-fledged 1976-vintage Disco tune, complete with the string section and the backing vocals of Pendergrass's fellow Blue Notes. The fact that this would be Teddy Pendergrass's final single on the Hot 100 as a member of the group has been largely forgotten, thanks to the song's early exit from the chart.

The Manhattans - "Kiss And Say Goodbye" Kiss and Say Goodbye - The Manhattans

(Debuted #99, Peaked #1, 26 Weeks on chart)

The platinum single certification was introduced in 1976, as increased sales of 45s led the music industry to recognize best-sellers beyond the "gold" standard used in the past. The first-ever platunim single was Johnny Taylor's "Disco Lady," and the second was The Manhattans' tear-jerker "Kiss and Say Goodbye."

Beginning with a spoken intro, the song tells of a couple's pending breakup. The narrator (Winfred "Blue" Lovett, who also wrote the song) is trying to be mature about it, but you know the events are about to tear him apart inside. And once Gerald Alston starts singing, the emotion of what is happening is laid bare.

"Kiss and Say Goodbye" was a major crossover hit, topping the pop and R&B charts and even reaching #4 in the U.K. It was also the biggest hit they'd get in their career.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rewind -- April 16, 1977

(Once again, here's a review from this blog's first year...given a refresh.)

Although only eight songs were able to break into the Hot 100, many had staying power. Five of them would be Top 40 hits, three made the Top 10, and a pair were destined to be #1 hits. Four songs would remain on the pop charts for at least 18 weeks. Interestingly, two of this week's new singles are songs whose point of view reflects bemusement at the latest dance craze; one dances to satisfy his partner and the other has to be coaxed into it. Another one is a unique song that was different but still reached the Top 40. Pablo Cruise is on the chart for the first time, while Bread, Carl Graves and B.W. Stevenson are making their last run. Finally, the first two songs listed are among the biggest of that year.

An archive of past Billboard issues is available at Google Books, including the April 16, 1977 edition. The full Hot 100 list is on page 80. Beginning on page 44, a feature article focuses on writer/producer Freddie Perren. A short article on page 32 explains that Frankie Valli was doing a "farewell" tour with The Four Seasons before embarking on a solo career. And finally, a reminder beginning on page 2 that some things just don't change: industry types were bemoaning the fact that many recent songs were filled with vulgar language and suggestive lyrics. What might be surprising is that the music in question was country. While complaining about the use of words "hell" and "damn" seems quaint today, it does reflect the more conservative nature of country fans in general even in 1977. However, the genre had long been an outlet for more "adult" topics (and the article mentions this) going back to its earliest days; really, when Hank Thompson and Kitty Wells sang about "Honky Tonk Angels" a quarter century earlier, who imagined the married woman in question was being chaste?

Marvin Gaye - "Got To Give It Up (Part 1)" Marvin Gaye - Number 1's: Marvin Gaye - Got to Give It Up, Part 1

(Debuted #50, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)

Back in the days when he was part of the Motown assembly-line production process, Marvin Gaye had a lot of singles and several hits. That would change beginning with his What's Going On LP (outlined on this blog a couple of years ago) and through the 1970s his work was a matter of quality over quantity.  However, despite Gaye's reduced output, he was still able to make hits. "Got to Give it Up" would be a big one, too, hitting #1 on Billboard's pop, soul and disco charts during the Spring of '77.

While there was no shortage of dance-oriented singles in 1977, "Got to Give it Up" doesn't come across as a standard-issue disco song. Its groove is much slower, voices are heard in the background to simulate a party going on (something also utilized in "What's Going On" although this time the voices are from Gaye himself) and Gaye refrains from using catchy dance hooks in favor of a more laid-back, funky feel. Even the percussion is mellow, partially made with a half-filled bottle of juice. The lyrics -- sometimes hard to follow because of Gaye's falsetto delivery -- tell of a guy who is reluctant to go out on the dance floor but eventually loses himself in the rhythm.

According to the legend, Gaye recorded the song in a very casual manner, laying back on a chair in the studio and singing into a microphone above him. It also was expanded and reworked by producer Art Stewart until it became a nearly 12-minute album cut. The single version was Part 1, lasting just over four minutes and including most of the vocals.

Fleetwood Mac - "Dreams" Fleetwood Mac - Rumours - Dreams

(Debuted #77, Peaked #1, 19 Weeks on chart)

Here's a song that ranks among the singles I don't get tired of hearing. That's especially rare, because it still gets played on the radio an awful lot. When I began this blog three and a half years ago I intended to write about all of the songs I felt were the best of the 1970s and this was one of the tunes I wanted to mention but hadn't gotten around to finishing before I changed my focus. Funny thing, though...when I was younger I really didn't care for the song. I guess it's one of those things you don't really get until you've had some life experience. For a while, in fact, I didn't even realize that "Dreams" was this song even though I had heard the song many times on the radio because that word doesn't feature in the lyrics until the last verse.

A lot has been written over the years about the soap opera drama between several band members as they recorded their music for the Rumours LP. So I won't get into the details of that except to point out the fact that Stevie Nicks wrote a song that was quite abstract when compared to Lindsay Buckingham's take on the events, "Go Your Own Way."

I've often forgotten how great the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are together. In the BBC series Classic Albums, the show about Rumours had a part where the producer and Fleetwood listen to the track in the studio brought down the audio for all the channels except the bass and drums. While a good bass/drum combo works like the timing chain in an old car, pulling the engine along, the McVie/Fleetwood combo does that and more in this song. Then again, having Lindsay Buckingham adding his haunting guitar line and Stevie Nicks singing about her own personal heartbreak adds more complexity to the tune.

Bread - "Hooked On You" Bread - Lost Without Your Love - Hooked On You

(Debuted #82, Peaked #60, 7 Weeks on chart)

"Hooked On You" was Bread's thirteenth single to reach the Hot 100. True to the superstition, it wasn't good luck for them at all. Not only would it be their first release to miss the Top 40, it would also turn out to be the band's final hit. For a band that seemed to have the Midas touch between 1970 and '73, it was a sad way to end. After touring for most of 1977 on what was billed as a "comeback" tour, the band quietly disbanded in 1978.

Like all of Bread's other hits, the song followed the standard formula that turned the group's earlier hits into gold: written and sung by David Gates, an easy listening feel, wistful lyrics and romantic guitar lick. Perhaps the fact that it sounded like just another Bread song doomed it, but it's much more likely that the prevailing sound of pop music had simply moved past what fed the group's early 1970s success and made the song seem old-fashioned.

Sad to think that in the group photo on the album cover shown below, only one of the guys is still alive.

Starbuck - "Everybody Be Dancin'" Starbuck - The Very Best of Starbuck - Everybody Be Dancin'

(Debuted #85, Peaked #38, 8 Weeks on chart)

Thanks to their #3 smash "Moonlight Feels Right," Starbuck is seen as a one-hit wonder despite four subsequent chart singles. However, only one of those -- "Everybody Be Dancin'" -- just barely made the Top 40, so they've been largely forgotten beyond their big hit. Formed in Atlanta in 1974, Starbuck was formed around the nucleus of ex-Eternity's Children members Bruce Blackman and Bo Wagner. And lest anybody think that "Everybody Be Dancin'" sounds like a lesson in ebonics, Starbuck was made up entirely of white musicians.

An obvious tip of the hat to the rising disco tide, "Everybody Be Dancin'" was the first track and lead single from the band's second LP Rock 'n' Roll Rocket. From the lyrics, the narrator doesn't understand the dance craze but is willing to do it to appease his lady, even as he is disappointed they don't dance the way he remembers ("I'm gonna catch that beat if it kills me, but don't you think it's a crying shame that they don't like Carmen here no more?"). Like their biggest hit single, this one also has a marimba solo and synthesizer and adds robotic-sounding vocals near the end. It's worth checking out if you've never heard it.

Dean Friedman - "Ariel"  (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #86, Peaked #26, 22 Weeks on chart)

Music is a tremendous thing once it becomes associated with memories. When I was in college, I lived in upstate New York. A record store around the corner from my school was affiliated with Rhino Records, which allowed me to pick up CDs from the Have a Nice Day: Hit Songs of the 1970s series one at a time as I was able to afford them. When I picked up Volume 19 in the series I found a tune I'd never heard before. From its mention of the same Hudson River that flowed nearby, the song stuck with me immediately despite being more quirky than most 1977 hit singles.

How quirky? First of all, the song had a sense of humor. The lyrics were playful and sung in a manner that wasn't often heard in a Top 40 song. There was a drug reference that wasn't oblique ("I said, 'Hi,' she said, 'Yeah, I guess I am...'"). Listening to an old episode of American Top 40, I heard a couple of edits to the song. The line "She was Jewish girl" was replaced with "Her name was Ariel" and the line about being high was cut out entirely, along with much of that verse. Since I wasn't able to hear the song during its original run on the charts, I never knew whether that edit was standard to allow for wider airplay. However, after hearing the full song it loses something when you know parts have been edited out. It's like hearing Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner," The Isley Brothers' "Fight the Power" or Pink Floyd's "Money" after knowing they changed an offending word.

At about the same time I first heard the song, I had met a unique young lady from Westchester County who was quite free-spirited. Although nothing ended up happening between us, I'm still glad that -- even for a short time -- I got to know her. Upon hearing "Ariel," I promptly associated her with the song even though that wasn't actually her name. And even today, I still picture her whenever I hear the song.

B.W. Stevenson - "Down To The Station"  (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #82, 5 Weeks on chart)

Dallas-reared singer B.W. Stevenson's final hit was a little different than what listeners who only know him from "My Maria" and possibly "Shambala" would expect. For somebody associated with the "cosmic cowboy" movement that came out of Texas during the 1970s, "Down to the Stations" was rather rhythmic. The song had a danceable beat, a noticeable thumping bass line and a guitar riff that was almost lifted whole from several R&B tunes. That isn't exactly what some might expect from somebody who was originally signed to be marketed to country audiences.

The lyrics of "Down to the Station" explain that the narrator has packed his suitcase and is leaving his life (and lady) behind. And he isn't stopping to look back, either. Not a bad topic for a final hit. Sadly, Stevenson's career was done after his next LP failed to get any notice. He would pass away in 1988 after heart surgery. He was 38 years old.

Carl Graves - "Sad Girl"  (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #83, 5 Weeks on chart)

"Sad Girl" was the second and final chart single for R&B singer Carl Graves, who briefly enjoyed some minor success with "Baby, Hang Up the Phone" in 1974. Not much info is available about Graves; his Allmusic entry has a picture of the group Oingo Boingo because they had a keyboardist by the same name from 1988-'91. From the picture shown, I'm fairly certain it wasn't the same Carl Graves. Another artist named Carl Graves played in the 1970s Canadian group Skylark.

"Sad Girl" is an okay song for its era. It had the requisite uptempo beat, complete with handclaps and female backing singers and a great guitar solo. However, it really doesn't stand out among the other songs competing for dance club play at the time.

Pablo Cruise - "Whatcha Gonna Do" Pablo Cruise - A Place In the Sun - Whatcha Gonna Do?

(Debuted #93, Peaked #6, 26 Weeks on chart)

Pablo Cruise's first Hot 100 single was certainly memorable; it was a Top 10 smash and stayed on the chart for half a year. Still recognized by listeners of many radio formats due to its constant exposure ever since it was a hit, features solid instrumental work and crisp production. That really shouldn't be surprising, considering the band was made up of veteran musicians. Among the lineup that recorded "Whatcha Gonna Do?" are former members of San Francisco bands Stoneground and It's a Beautiful Day (who were together back during the days of Flower Power).

Beginning with a drum intro, a bass leads the rest of the band into the song. There's also a well-crafted electric guitar solo during the song's instrumental break. The words are fairly basic, coming off as advice from one friend to another about holding on to a relationship. While the simplistic lyrics backed by music that isn't difficult for pros to handle may not seem like much, the song has enjoyed some heavy exposure over the years. It's one of those tunes that many recognize even when they may not know the title or who performed it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Week's Review -- April 15, 1972

There were seven new singles making their debut on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. None of them made it into the Top 40, though. In the nearly three years I've been writing reviews on this blog, that's only the second time that no songs were strong enough to reach the Top 40. Granted, many of the artists featured hit the Top 40 at other times, and one of them will probably be a surprise, but the songs that miss the chance to have Casey Kasem introduce them on his weekly show are sometimes just as interesting as many that do.

Google Books has a large archive of past Billboard magazines to read, including the April 15, 1972 edition.  The full Hot 100 can be found on page 64. Those of you interested in radio will find the extended section about the NAB convention interesting, if for no other reason than to remember the "good old days."

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Dr. John - "Iko Iko" Iko Iko - Dr. John's Gumbo

(Debuted #86, Peaked #71, 5 Weeks on chart)

Fans who know this song from its inclusion in the film Rain Man (a version The Belle Stars took to the Top 40 in 1989) might be surprised to see it here, but the roots of "Iko Iko" go back to a song called "Jock-a-Mo" written by James Crawford in 1953. It was a tale of a confrontation between two bands of Mardi Gras revelers who dressed as Indian tribes as their parade routes crossed. The song was morphed into "Iko Iko" by The Dixie Cups in 1965 when an impromptu practice session was caught on tape by producers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller.

A song about Mardi Gras festivities fit in perfectly for the New Orleans-born Mac Rebbenack, who used the stage name of Dr. John. In fact, it came from an LP called Dr. John's Gumbo, which was a tribute to his home city. "Iko Iko" was the song that kicked off the festivities, and melds the original Crawford version with the words of the later hit.

R. Dean Taylor - "Taos New Mexico" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #83, 3 Weeks on chart)

Taos, New Mexico is a unique community. There is a highly active artist society there, tourists arrive each year to ski, and it is a historic area which has more than a millennium of continual residency. In this song, however, the narrator isn't worried about any of that. He's locked up in prison and just wants to go home.

And while he's sitting in his cell, he's thinking of his Maria. At the beginning of the song, he's reading a letter from his mother saying that Maria is looking around for another man...and he wants to get back and "never leave Maria alone." In the second verse, he explains that her demands for expensive items is what likely led him to get locked up. In my opinion, he'd probably be better if she went her own way, but love makes us do crazy things.

Of course, a song called "Taos, New Mexico" wouldn't be complete without a Mariachi band, and there they are, in the background with the flute player. It was R. Dean Taylor's last single on the Hot 100.

Ken Loggins with Jim Messina - "Vahevala" Vahevala - Sittin' In

(Debuted #90, Peaked #84, 5 Weeks on chart)

Jim Messina decided it was time to get off the road after several years as a member of The Buffalo Springfield and Poco. He had experimented with sound engineering and production when he was a member of The Buffalo Springfield, and wanted to give it a try full time. Enter Kenny Loggins, who was a songwriter and folk-leaning performer but wasn't signed as an artist. Messina convinced his label to sign Loggins, and he would "sit in" and help with the recordings while producing the album. That idea even led to the title of the LP, Sittin' In

It ended up being more successful than anybody expected. Instead of "helping" a new artist get started, Jim Messina ended up being part of a duo. Their debut Hot 100 single was "Vahevala," a song that Loggins co-wrote but not one that made much of an impression chart-wise. The low-key hit with a Calypso interlude followed "Danny's Song" on that LP. Ironically, more fans remember that song (which wasn't issued as a single) today.

The hits would soon come, though, and Loggins' star rose enough to let him eventually go on to the solo career that Messina knew he was capable of having.

Jerry Garcia - "Sugaree" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #95, Peaked #94, 2 Weeks on chart)

When The Grateful Dead re-signed with Warner Brothers in the early 1970s, several members of the band were able to record solo albums. Bob Weir recorded one, as did Mickey Hart and Jerry Garcia. That may seem a little disconcerting while a band is still together, but the strength of The Grateful Dead was that the group's freeform jams allowed the individual members to do their own thing without feeling a desire to walk away.

Among Garcia's assets was his wide range of influences. "Sugaree" reflects folk, blues and -- to a lesser extent -- country. The lyrics were written by longtime Dead associate Robert Hunter and Bill Kreutzmann does the drumming, but Garcia plays all of the other instruments on the recording. For this album, Garcia wasn't really looking to expand away from his group. Instead, it was just a conduit for him to keep busy until the band was ready to hit the road again. 

David Bowie - "Changes" Changes - Hunky Dory (Remastered)

(Debuted #96, Peaked #66, 7 Weeks on chart)

Of all the debut songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list this week, "Changes" may be the one that most fans would be surprised to discover it missed the Top 40. As time has passed, it's become one of David Bowie's best-known songs and has frequently appeared on his "Best of" compilation LPs. It was even quoted at the beginning of the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. Yet, it was a relative failure upon its release in both the U.S. and U.K. Even a 1974 re-issue of the single failed to make the Top 40, peaking at 41.

"Changes" was the first chart single for Bowie in the U.S., which partially explains its low peak on the chart on this side of the "Big Pond." In the U.K., it was felt that "Oh! You Pretty Things" was a more natural candidate for a single from the Hunky Dory LP, but Peter Noone covered it and released the song as a single.

"Changes" started out as a throwaway song, which might explain why it works so well. It doesn't aspire to be a "voice of a generation" or even an explanation of disaffected youth despite lines like "these children that you spit upon." Over time, it's been picked up by listeners as one of Bowie's finest tunes.

Solomon Burke - "Love's Street And Fool's Road" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #98, Peaked #89, 5 Weeks on chart)

"Love's Street and Fool's Road" is mentioned by Solomon Burke in the song as his location in a telephone conversation. He's in a phone booth, waiting for his woman to arrive. The title is a metaphor, and the funk and brass section in the song backs up his exhortation that he's not in as deep as everybody around him thinks.

The song was part of the soundtrack for the "blaxploitation" movie Cool Breeze. The flick was a remake of The Asphalt Jungle, where a man tries to use a jewel heist to finance a bank in the ghetto. Of course, the plan doesn't exactly work out as expected. Burke provided all of the music for the movie. 

Apollo 100 - "Mendelssohn's 4th (Second Movement)" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #99, Peaked #94, 3 Weeks on chart)

After scoring a surprise hit with its electronic version of a Bach tune, Apollo 100 returned with a second offering in hopes that lightning would strike twice. Of course, it didn't, and that would be the last time Apollo 100 appeared on the Hot 100.

Apollo 100 was an English studio under the aegis of arranger and multi-instrumentalist Tom Parker. As for the song, it was a reworking of "Symphony No. 4" by German composer Felix Mendelssohn, which is also known as the "Italian Symphony." He wrote it in 1833 after watching a religious procession in Naples as he took a tour around Europe. Mendelssohn was similar to Mozart as a child prodigy who was writing music from an early age; also like Mozart, he died in his 30s.