Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Week's Review -- July 1, 1972

Twelve new singles showed up in this week's Billboard Hot 100, with six reaching into the Top 40. Three would make the Top 10 and one went all the way to #1. Four songs are debuts, from artists who enjoyed repeat trips to the charts (though one of those was primarily a country artist). The chart-topper is a country/rock tune that defined the singer/songwriter genre. Jim Croce sings about another Jim who is a bad mother...("shut your mouth!"). The Isley Brothers sing a song that is slyly about sex, while The Raspberries are a lot more direct about it. A 13 year-old singer shows up with a mature theme, The Partridge Family remakes a tune from the past, and David Bowie indirectly references his own past. Teddy Pendergrass pleads for the first (but definitely not the last) time, Bob Seger tries out another writer's material, and The Temptations sing a song about how life should be.

Over at Google Books is an archive of past issues of Billboard, including the July 1, 1972 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 56. A column on page 40 notes the recent passing of Clyde McPhatter. He was 41, which seemed to be really old in my opinion not that long ago...but seems to be quite young in my perspective today. The former frontman for the Drifters and soul legend died of a heart attack, which definitely isn't expected of a person that age.


MP3's at CDUniverse.com

Jim Croce - "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" You Don't Mess Around With Jim - You Don't Mess Around With Jim

(Debuted #60, Peaked #8, 13 Weeks on chart )



A debut song is a perfect time for the artist who recorded it to let it be known they're around, and that messing with them is futile. In this case, however, the "Jim" in the title isn't Jim Croce at all. Instead, this is the story about "Big" Jim Walker, a badass pool hustler in New York. Croce goes on to tell how "Slim," an Alabama country boy, came back to get back what was his and how the story changes once the big man was ambushed. At the end of the song, Jim is out of commission (or dead) and now the guy to beware of is Slim.

So, at the end of a song that announced that Jim Croce had arrived, the "Jim" in the story has been taken out. The person in the song was based on a real person Croce knew in Philadelphia (not New York, as the song states), who was made into a composite of several people. Croce would go on to narrate other songs about social miscreants, most notably the lead character in "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."


The Osmonds - "Hold Her Tight" Hold Her Tight - Osmondmania! Osmond Family Greatest Hits

(Debuted #76, Peaked #14, 9 Weeks on chart)



In a case of stuff being recycled, the opening of "Hold Her Tight" is the same bass riff that leads off  Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." Don't believe me? Click the video above and see if you don't agree. In any case, the bottom-heavy arrangement and solid rock styling is not what you might expect from a group that counted Donny Osmond as one of its members, or from a group that made its mark playing Disneyland and The Andy Williams Show.

This was a track from the Crazy Horses LP, which also boasted a rocker in the title song. The story of The Osmonds might have been more interesting if they created an entire album of songs like this, but that wasn't going to be the case. But it proves that even a Mormon family can be subversive when they wanted to.


Mac Davis - "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me" Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me - Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me

(Debuted #77, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)



Though he was noted for writing songs that others made into hits ("In the Ghetto," "Watching Scotty Grow"), Mac Davis's own career wasn't doing so well. As a result, Columbia Records demanded that he write a song with a "hook," rather than the country/rock material he was putting out. So, Davis put one in his title. 

The result was a #1 hit and a career-defining song. The lyrics were a warning to a woman to expect him to depart once he feels too closed in, and the music was definitely the country/rock sound Davis gave to his music. It's a well-crafted pop song, even with its country roots...and curiously, it peaked at only #26 country despite topping both the pop and adult contemporary charts.

A few years later, when Davis was singing "Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me" to Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show (while she was dressed as a mermaid and sat on a giant fishhook), I wonder if any parents bothered to explain the adult nature of the song. I know mine didn't.


Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - "I Miss You (Part 1)" I Miss You - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

(Debuted #80, Peaked #58, 19 Weeks on chart)



For some, "I Miss You" was the first time the powerful voice of Teddy Pendergrass came over the speakers. It was the first pop chart entry for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and here Pendergrass explains how sorry he is while he commiserates about the fact that he's prepared to change in order for the woman he loves to return to his arms. He sounds like he's on the verge of losing it.   

Pendergrass's pleading is shifted into the background of the album version for one side of a telephone conversation where the protagonist lists all the ways he's changed. He picked up a job and is ready to take extra responsibility to show he's worth another chance. He's a little sore that she's ready to move on without him, and Pendergrass remains in the background, underscoring the point.

Once again, this song goes past the euphoria of falling in love that often appears in pop music, and is about the relationship after things get real.


Neil Young and Graham Nash - "War Song" War Song [Single Version] [Mono] - Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1 (1963-1972)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #61, 6 Weeks on chart)



Just like today, there was a Presidential election going on in 1972. And as the summer got underway, Democrat George McGovern (a Senator from South Dakota) was poised to unseat Richard Nixon from the Oval office. Although Nixon wasn't exactly popular, the race was no contest at all; McGovern received 17 electoral votes to Nixon's 520.

During the race, Neil Young wrote a protest song for the benefit of McGovern's candicacy. Called "War Song," the lyrics promised that "a man" was running who would put an end to the ongoing war in Vietnam (ironically, Nixon would do that after the election was over anyway). McGovern wasn't specifically named in the song, but George Wallce was. Young recorded the song with his former bandmate Graham Nash and a backing group called The Stray Gators. Interestingly, neither artist was an American citizen, as Young was Canadian and Nash was English.


The Isley Brothers - "Pop That Thang" Pop that Thang - Brother, Brother, Brother

(Debuted #87, Peaked #24, 15 Weeks on chart)



Once again, I'm a sucker for performance footage from Soul Train, even when it's a lip-synched rendition. It captures more than just the music, it's the styles, the dance moves and an atmosphere of a bygone time. Not only that, but it shows The Isley Brothers "singing" the funky "Pop That Thang."

The lyrics for "Pop That Thang" use metaphors to get around the suggestive nature of the song. Yes "pop" could mean a gunshot (and it's certainly followed by the words "bang bang bang" to illustrate that), or it could mean the same "pop" that sometimes signifies a climax. The line "look at that rooster running after that hen" gives credence to that theory.


The Raspberries - "Go All the Way" Go All the Way - Raspberries

(Debuted #88, Peaked #5, 18 Weeks on chart)



Where the last song was suggestive, this one is a lot more straightforward. That said, when Eric Carmen wrote the song, he infused it with enough hooks to make it a classic. Phrasing that was broght about by "Let's Spend the Night Together" (another song witha fairly direct reference to what the singer wanted) and instrumentation that was inspired by The Beach Boys' classic Pet Sounds LP mixed to make one of the earliest "power pop" songs. That made The Raspberries a very big influence for the same kids that were establishing their "new" sound at the end of the decade.

With "Go All the Way," the music is so immediate, it would be easy to avoid paying attention to the words. However, the feeling behind the guitar blasts pretty much mirrors what the singer's trying to say. As a result, it's a perfect soundtrack for two teens trying to figure out what they're doing in the back seat at the drive-in. It's a feeling that we've all had while growing up...and that's what makes it a classic song.


Tanya Tucker - "Delta Dawn" Delta Dawn (Single Version) - Tanya Tucker: 16 Biggest Hits

(Debuted #92, Peaked #72, 7 Weeks on chart)



Tanya Tucker's first hit was an auspicious one. She was 13 years old and had a voice that made her sound older, so she sang about adult topics. With "Delta Dawn," she told a story about a woman who was possibly demented, waiting patiently for a man from her past who promised to take her away from her Brownsville home but never returned. The smooth-talking suitor either died or left without her, but Dawn still waits for him to come and get her even at the age of 41.

Tucker's version fell far short of the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was a #6 country hit. Most pop fans know the song for its 1973 #1 rendition by Helen Reddy, who sang over an instrumental bed that closely mimicked Tucker's, but it was recorded by several artists as well. Bette Midler recorded it as well (her version actually predated Tucker's), but the original version was performed by co-writer Alex Harvey (not the Scottish rocker) in 1971. He wrote the tune with Larry Collins, one of the Collins Kids of the 1950s.

For Tucker, it was the beginning of a long and successful career, and the beginning of a style she continued as she matured.


The Temptations - "Mother Nature" Mother Nature - Emperors of Soul (Box Set)

(Debuted #93, Peaked #92, 4 Weeks on chart)



All Directions would become The Temptations' biggest-selling LP in four years, buoyed by the strength of their hit "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." However, the initial singles from the album was "Mother Nature," which may have seemed to be a disappointment when it fizzled out at #92 on the pop chart and barely dented the Top 30 of the R&B survey. Today, the song is all but forgotten.

Sung as a slow ballad by Dennis Edwards, "Mother Nature" was one of the socially aware songs that producer Norman Whitfield preferred the group to perform. The lyrics -- written by Dino Fekaris and Nick Zesses -- could be interpreted as a plea to Mother Nature (ecologically) or to the racial changes taking place. It was really up to the listener to determine which.



Bob Seger - "If I Were a Carpenter" If I Were a Carpenter - Early Seger, Vol. 1 (Remastered)

(Debuted #94, Peaked #76, 9 Weeks on chart)



I was actually a little surprised to find that "If I Were a Carpenter" is available on iTunes and Amazon, because Bob Seger is one of those artists who hasn't yet jumped to the new digital format. In interviews, he refers to it as a business matter, but some of his fans ask if he's missing out on new fans due to the lack of his music on as many streams as possible. Personally, it's his material, and if he wants to keep it pent up...that's his prerogative. It's not like classic rock radio doesn't give him plenty of opportunity for his music to be heard.

However, "If I Were a Carpenter" wasn't a Seger original. It was written by Tim Hardin and was a Top 10 hit for Bobby Darin that year. It has been recorded hundreds of times since then and has become something iof a standard. The album that contained the song was Smokin' O.P.s, a record largely made up of songs from other writers. It was a return to Seger's harder-edged roots, and that gives Seger's version of the song a little more of an edge because it isn't given the reverent treatment that others sometimes give to the song.

While Seger himself doesn't seem to favor his earlier material, I think it shows a lot of promise, and would quickly toss this one on the platter as an example of what he can do even with somebody else's composition.


The Partridge Family - "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" Breaking Up Is Hard to Do - The Definitive Collection

(Debuted #95, Peaked #28, 10 Weeks on chart)



"Breaking Up is Hard to Do" is a remake of 1962 Neil Sedaka song that remains fairly true to the original version, presented in a safe fashion by David Cassidy, Shirley Jones and a handful of studio musicians. While that may sound like I'm dismissing the song without giving it a listen, I'm really not. As part of a regular TV show, the song is defined as a middle-of-the-road type of song that will appeal to a wide range of people. However, even Sedaka managed to revisit his own song a few years later and give it a new interpretation (which mirrored Lenny Welch's 1970 treatment of the song), and that later version has really stuck with me as a much better rendition.


David Bowie - "Starman" Starman - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Remastered)

(Debuted #100, Peaked #65, 9 Weeks on chart)



"Starman" is one of the songs from David Bowie's concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and a Bowie classic that really isn't revisited as often as it should be. A song written from the perspective of a young fan hearing Ziggy on the radio, it has generated some debate among fans about its meaning. One of those involves the similarity of the "Starman" to Major Tom of "Space Oddity."

Featuring a unique guitar strum by Mick Ronson that sounded like a telegraph, the chorus that follows has some similarities to "Over the Rainbow," likely solidifying the child-like wonder of the lyrics. While it's hard to consider any Bowie song from this period "underrated," this one really deserves another listen if you're not that familiar with it.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rewind -- June 30, 1979

During 2012, I'm revisiting the entries of this blog's first year and tweaking them to better represent the way it looks today. This week, we reach the halfway point of the project.

As the decade was coming to an end, a sense of nostalgia sometimes can't be helped even as others may have been looking ahead to a hopeful future. Musicians weren't any different, as some of the songs debuting in this week's Billboard Hot 100 can attest. Nine new singles make the survey, with three making the Top 40. Two songs have nostalgic lyrics (which are oddly counterbalanced by then-current rhythms), another is a rock song that mentions a band's early years, while two songs -- one considered "new wave," another funk -- look ahead toward the music that will help shape the sound of the 1980s. Some songs are interesting contrasts: a country star sings pop, a pop singer channels Linda Ronstadt, a band from Canada cuts a song for a label associated with Southern rock, a Philly-based group sings about Motown and a song about a singing cowboy has a light disco beat.

Over at Google Books, the June 30, 1979 edition of Billboard magazine gives the top music industry news of the era. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 80. An article on page 40 explains that efforts to have two different 10th-anniversary "Woodstock" concerts in Upstate New York -- but neither at the original site of the iconic 1969 happening -- had both run aground. One of the shows was scheduled to have Rod Stewart, The Village People, The Beach Boys and Cheap Trick but was struck down when the town of Hurleyville, NY denied the permits out of fear that the crowds would be too much for the tiny hamlet. Another planned event farther upstate in Seneca County seemed to have fallen apart before any bands had been announced.

Wolfgang's Vault - Posters

The Cars - "Let's Go" The Cars - Candy-O - Let's Go

(Debuted #80, Peaked #14, 15 Weeks on chart)



Among songs that were hits during the 1970s, some of those hitting near the end of the decade are somehow associated with the 1980s instead. Perhaps the best example would be "Video Killed the Radio Star," a 1979 Top 40 hit for The Buggles but forever linked with the birth of MTV in 1981. Other songs that get confused for later hits -- such as "I Don't Like Mondays," "Is She Really Going Out With Him" or "Rock Lobster" -- are likely due to their association with the New Wave movement that took hold in the U.S. as the 1980s were getting underway. Though I understand that, it still gets me when I see a song like "Let's Go" used as the soundtrack music for a 1980s-themed movie (even one like Not Another Teen Movie that parodies them).

Of course, "Let's Go" has more in common with the 1980s rock sound with its synthesizer-infused backing track, its electronic hand claps and its hook-laden production. Written by guitarist/singer Ric Ocasek but sung by bassist Benjamin Orr, the song is about a free-spirited 17 year-old girl who's determined to enjoy herself while she's still young. While the song's narrator has begged her to go out with him, the lure of the nightlife is stronger than anything he can offer.

Actually, this isn't the only Cars song that's often mistaken for an '80s tune. The other one, though is an honest mistake since it happens to be used in an iconic scene from the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Originally included on the group's 1978 debut LP but not issued as a single, "Moving in Stereo" became part of a generation's collective conscience when it played during the scene where Brad (Judge Reinhold) imagines Linda (Phoebe Cates) coming out of the pool.


The Marshall Tucker Band - "Last Of The Singing Cowboys" (Not Available as MP3)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #42, 8 Weeks on chart)



For those who judge a song by what's written on the label, this song may be something of a surprise. While The Marshall Tucker Band has been known as a Southern Rock outfit with country & western influences, and the song title brings to mind Roy Rogers or Gene Autry, the song has a light dance beat. While fans may have shuddered for a moment when hearing the song, it's worth mentioning that the band often wasn't willing to be cornered into any type of sound and occasionally experimented with different styles. In 1979, that sometimes meant a disco song.

The song tells a story about a man singing in a bar, asking for requests and telling stories about his life. After three hours, he is led away and the bartender explains something about the old man that changes the entire context of the song. It turns out he's blind and doesn't realize the only people were listening were whoever just happened to be at the bar. That makes the song a commentary on somebody hanging on to the old ways even while everything around him changes, which somehow makes the dance music driving the words a little more understandable.

Dolly Parton - "You're The Only One" Dolly Parton - Great Balls of Fire - You're the Only One

(Debuted #82, Peaked #59, 6 Weeks on chart)



During the 1990s, I was a radio DJ. One station was in Poughkeepsie, New York and had a country format, with a sister station doing "all-70s, all the time." One day I arrived at work to find fellow jock Russ Anson taking a phone call from a listener who was trying to figure out a song she couldn't get out of her head. All she knew for certain was that it was sung by Dolly Parton. Once she said, "there's a spoken part in the middle," I said to Russ, "I think she means 'You're the Only One'." Immediately, the lady said, "Yes! That's the song!" Russ explained that he'd spent what seemed like five minutes without any success, and here I answered it without hearing more than two sentences. That's a really nice gift, but after that, word spread among my co-workers and I became the de facto DJ the others told our listeners to call when they were stumped. Since I worked both of the stations, I ended up doing double duty when it came to those sometimes impossible calls. Though that little bit of personal history has absolutely nothing to do with the song, it still reminds me of the time I ended up both standing out among my peers and also being tagged "that guy" when a listener called in singing an off-key rendition of a tune he wanted us to name.

Written by Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, "You're the Only One" was one of the songs recorded by Parton specifically for pop crossover success. While she sang the song beautifully, there certainly were a lot of pop elements in the song.  The song missed the pop Top 40 but was a #1 country hit and #14 on the adult contemporary chart. Even though it was a long way from the self-written, home-spun material she was doing earlier in the decade ("Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene," her original version of "I Will Always Love You"), the song helped further the goal she began pursuing with "Here You Come Again" by helping bring Parton to a wider audience.


Peaches and Herb - "We've Got Love" Peaches & Herb - 2 Hot! - We've Got Love

(Debuted #83, Peaked #44, 8 Weeks on chart)



On the heels of two huge smash hits, a new single was rushed to radio to help sustain Peaches & Herb's hot streak. After a funk-infused dance hit ("Shake Your Groove Thing") followed by a lush ballad ("Reunited"), the new single was the uptempo number called "We've Got Love" but it missed the Top 40.

Though Peaches & Herb had scored some hits during the 1960s, the act was retired after 1970 when Herb Fame became a policeman in Washington, D.C. When he decided to resurrect his musical career, he enlisted Linda Greene as the new "Peaches." Her sensual delivery went well with Fame's upper register, but their hits dried up after 1980. By 1986, Fame was back to his career in law enforcement.


The Who - "Long Live Rock" The Who - The Kids Are Alright - Long Live Rock

(Debuted #84 Peaked #54, 6 Weeks on chart)



For a song held out as a "rock anthem" by some of the group's fans, it doesn't appear "Long Live Rock" was a particular favorite of The Who. Originally written by Pete Townsend as part of the band's "Lifehouse" project, it didn't end up on the Who's Next LP that resulted. Despite planning to make it part of a 1972 Who project celebrating rock & roll, it was shelved again when Townsend began working on Quadrophenia. The song would finally appear on 1974's Odds & Sods, an album of outtakes and discarded songs issued to curb bootlegging. It would finally become a single when it was included in the documentary The Kids Are Alright.

A somewhat autobiographical song, the lyrics are both a celebration and a description of the band's lifestyle. From vomiting at the bar to preparing for a show while others take the chance to make their money, and finally to rocking the house even when the lights get cut off, the lyrics refute the idea that rock is dead. However, the music is what everybody expects from The Who: Roger Daltrey's familiar delivery, Pete Townsend's slashing guitar progression, Keith Moon's take-no-prisoners pounding on the drums and John Entwistle laying down the bass as all hell breaks loose around him. While fans love the song, it can also be seen as a pedestrian effort, which may be the reason it was held back from the group's recordings for so long.


G.Q. - "I Do Love You" Not Available as MP3)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #20, 17 Weeks on chart)



On the heels of an effusive dance hit called "Disco Nights (Rock Freak)," G.Q. followed it up with a ballad more suitable for slow dancing. "I Do Love You" was a remake of a Billy Stewart single that had been a minor hit in 1965. Filled with romantic keyboard lines, light jazz-influenced guitar licks and smooth vocals, the song was a popular wedding song at the time. While the song wasn't quite as big as its predecessor, it made #20 on the pop chart and #5 R&B, which were both better positions that Stewart achieved with his '65 Chess single.

After "I Do Love You" fell off the Hot 100, G.Q.'s further singles would appear largely on the R&B chart, but other than a 1982 hit that stalled at #93, their pop hits dried up even though they were still actively performing into the 1990s.

The Cooper Brothers Band - "I'll Know Her When I See Her" (Not Available as MP3)

(Debuted #86, Peaked #79, 4 Weeks on chart)



Here's an extreme case of "North meets South." While Capricorn Records was based in Atlanta and regarded as a "Southern rock" label, The Cooper Brothers Band was from North of the Border: Ottawa, Ontario. The group was led by brothers Brian and Richard (Dick) Cooper, along with friend Terry King. Despite showing great promise, the band had trouble once Capricorn went bankrupt and soon broke apart after the label folded.

"I'll Know Her When I See Her" is a song about seeking the perfect mate and not settling for "almost perfect," despite fiends' assertions that sometimes concessions can be made. With a good guitar lick driving the song and a saxophone aiding the flow, the song probably deserved better than its #79 peak.

Philly Cream - "Motown Review" Philly Cream - Jammin' At The Disco - Motown Review

(Debuted #88, Peaked #67, 5 Weeks on chart)



Philly Cream was a studio group under the creative control of producer Butch Ingram. They were part of the short-lived Fantasy Records "disco" imprint Fantasy WMOT. As the name implies, they were a Philadelphia-based group and are very much infused with Philly soul. "Motown Review" was their only Hot 100 entry.

The title "Motown Review" may bring to mind a song like Shalamar's "Uptown Festival," which contained a medley of Motown songs in it. However, this song is a nostalgic look at younger days and how things had changed over the past 10-15 years. The lyrics are a list of differences: Motown reviews are gone, The Beatles have broken up, Kennedy's been shot, Dick Clark has gotten older, Coke bottles aren't made of glass anymore, kids would rather dance than sit in the theaters, rock & roll shows have been replaced by discos. The irony about those last two items are the fact that they're sung over a solid disco beat. Nothing says "integrity" quite like complaining about a new form of music...in a song that appeals to fans of that sound.



Jennifer Warnes - "I Know A Heartache When I See One" Jennifer Warnes - Best of Jennifer Warnes - I Know a Heartache When I See One

(Debuted #89, Peaked #19, 22 Weeks on chart)



"I Know a Heartache When I See One" is often mistaken for a Linda Ronstadt song. It's easy to make the error: among the players on the song was frequent Ronstadt collaborator Andrew Gold, the backup vocals during the chorus sound suspiciously like her and the song ventured into the same Southern California country/pop territory she'd been traveling for years. Also like many of Ronstadt's hits, the song was a crossover hit (Top 40 pop, Top 10 country, Top 20 AC). It almost seems that the only thing that kept it from being a Linda Ronstadt song was the fact that it wasn't a hit previously.

Co-written by former Gary Puckett & the Union Gap bassist Kerry Chater, the song is a statement of independence from somebody who clearly isn't good for her. Another song written by a man that seems to be better handled from the female perspective, the tune is a good example of a "kiss-off" song, late-1970s style.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Week's Review -- June 22, 1974

This week marks another milestone, as 70s Music Mayhem marks its 150th different review. That number doesn't include the "Rewind" posts that run each Wednesday, since they are merely rebooted entries from the past. Still, 150 reviews is an awful lot but there are still about 365 of them to go before I run out. The next milestone is the 3-year mark, which is coming in August.

There were nine new singles in Billboard magazine this week. Six of them reached the Top 40, while four were Top 10 hits. Additionaly, there were two #1 singles, by Roberta Flack and Andy Kim. Elton John shows up with a song that would be a #1 single nearly two decades later. Chicago lends their own sound to a plea for unity as a marriage is falling apart. Joe Cocker and James Brown give their unique sounds an outlet as well, while The Temptations look to past glories. Curtis Mayfield does a "Kung Fu" song that predates the novelty single that Carl Douglas recorded. Finally, two nephews of an established singer show up with a remake.

There are several past issues of Billboard over at Google Books, including the June 22, 1974 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 64. An article on page 20 mentions the marriage of Sly Stone to Kathy Silva before a concert at Madison Square Garden. At least he didn't have too much trouble booking a band for the reception. Silva would eventually leave Stone in 1976. On page 46 is yet another story of a country singer having a song pitched in an opportune manner. This time, it was Don Williams and he was getting gas at the time. The attendant's song, "I Wouldn't Want to Live if You Didn't Love Me," would be his first #1 hit.

MP3's at CDUniverse.com

Elton John - "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me - Caribou

(Debuted #70, Peaked #2, 15 Weeks on chart)



When composing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," Elton John and Bernie Taupin were interested in making it a little more complex than they usually did. So when they recorded it, they attempted to go all out on it. For the brass parts, Tower of Power was hired. When they tried to get a Beach Boys-type backing harmony, they brought in two of the members of that group (Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston) and Toni Tennille to provide the voices. Actually, what they tried was to add in several voices on top of those -- including members of America, Three Dog Night and Dusty Springfield -- but decided it was just too much. 

Along with the non-single "Candle in the Wind," this would be one of the 1970s songs John would revisit later in his career. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" would hit again in 1991/'92 as a duet with George Michael, where it went to #1 on the Hot 100.


Roberta Flack - "Feel Like Makin' Love" Feel Like Makin' Love - Feel Like Makin' Love

(Debuted #78, Peaked #1, 16 Weeks on chart)



Roberta Flack was at the top of her game between 1972-'74. In that span, she released five singles that made the Hot 100 and three of them reached the #1 position. And one of the other two (a duet with Donny Hathaway called "Where is the Love") went to #5. While that string would end with "Feel Like Making Love," Flack remained active, charting for another two decades.

A smooth vocal performance by Flack, "Feel Like Makin' Love" was a #1 single on the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts. This shouldn't be confused with a song she did in 1982 in a similar style called "Making Love" (and also charted on several formats) for the soundtrack of the movie of the same name.


James Brown - "My Thang" My Thang (Single Version) - Make It Funky - The Big Payback: 1971-1975

(Debuted #79, Peaked #29, 13 Weeks on chart)



While many casual fans are pretty sure what they'll get in a James Brown single, "My Thang" definitely won't come as a surprise. The brass flourishes? The call-and-response with female background singers? Brown's spontaneous off-the-cuff shouts? They're all here.

That said, "My Thang" is a very good performance by The Godfather of Soul. The song is about as hard and tight as he ever got on vinyl. Even the Soul Train performance in the video above looks like a great time was had by all. The song was part of Brown's LP Hell, a double album that was as good as any he ever recorded.


Andy Kim - "Rock Me Gently" Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim: Greatest Hits

(Debuted #81, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)



There's nothing like a long dry spell to get an artist to try harder. In the case of Any Kim, the creative spell that saw him write several hits and chart a few more in the late 1960s and early 70s dried up in 1971 and left him without a label. To get himself back in the game, Kim financed a recording session out of his own pocket for another single. The original B-side was called "Fire, Baby, I'm On Fire" and was considered strong enough to release on its own (I reviewed it here in October 2010), and the A-side was a bubblegum-flavored tune called "Rock Me Gently."

Upon hearing the song, Capitol Records heard a hit and released it. Maybe it was the quasi-Neil Diamond vocal (as Kim was known to speed up his earlier recordings), maybe it was the irresistable beat with the everpresent clavicle, but the song spiraled its way to #1 a little more than three months after it debuted.


Joe Cocker - "Put Out The Light" Put Out the Light - I Can Stand a Little Rain

(Debuted #82, Peaked #46, 12 Weeks on chart)



The video above features a 1976 live performance, which is slightly outside what most people consider "contemporary," but no other recording of "Put Out the Light" seems to exist (as of this writing, that is) on YouTube.

For his 1974 LP I Can Stand a Little Rain, Joe Cocker returned to interpreting others' songs, after one album that saw him penning his own material with Chris Stainton. Daniel Moore (who also co-wrote "Shambala" and "My Maria" with B.W. Stevenson) wrote "Put Out the Light," which Cocker rips through with his customary blues-influenced style.


Chicago - "Call On Me" Call On Me - Chicago VII

(Debuted #89, Peaked #6, 15 Weeks on chart)



Hearing the name "Chicago" brings totally different images to one's mind than the ones seen in the video above. It was filmed at James William Guercio's Caribou studio in Colorado (also the site of Elton John's recording mentioned earlier), which is a very long way from the group's home city. The song has elements of the group's classic sound: the brass section, the shifting sounds from verse to chorus and some great drumming.

There was an interesting genesis to "Call On Me": according to group member Lee Loughnane, he wrote it as he was nearing the end of his marriage. While the title sounds like it's asking for a late-night hookup, a readin of the lyric sheet fleshes out the story. In effect, it's saying let's part as friends, let's eventually look back on this as a nice time even if it did go sour. And feel free to keep in touch whenever you need somebody to talk with.

I'm guessing he might have written it a little differently after the lawyers got involved.


The Temptations - "You've Got My Soul On Fire" You've Got My Soul On Fire - 1990

(Debuted #90, Peaked #74, 6 Weeks on chart)



"You've Got My Soul On Fire" was from The Temptations' 1990 LP, which would be the last one they recorded under the tutelage of Norman Whitfield. Yearning to return to the ballads that were their main calling card in the 1960s, they began growing tired of the world-weary "message" material that Whitfield was having them record.

That said, the song was a funk-driven jam that called the band's earlier hits "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and "Masterpiece" instrumentally even as it eschewed any "message" in its lyric. Instead of singing about a ghetto burning in the title of the song, the lyrics refer to the effect of a woman's love, or at least a burning desire to get to knocking the headboard. It missed pop the Top 40, but was a Top 10 R&B hit.


Curtis Mayfield - "Kung Fu" Kung Fu - Future Shock (Remastered)

(Debuted #96, Peaked #40, 13 Weeks on chart)



There was an interest in the martial arts during the 1970s, largely brought about by the rise of Bruce Lee's films. The TV show Kung Fu was already airing before Curtis Mayfield's song and had nothing to do with it. In any case, the #1 song "Kung Fu Fighting" came along later in 1974, so there was no effort on Mayfield's part to ride along on that novelty. Instead, his "Kung Fu" was a funk-infused story song.

"Kung Fu" was Mayfield's final song on the top 40 as an artist, but his influence and material would remain for years to come. The Staple Singers ("Let's Do it Again") and Tony Orlando & Dawn ("He Don't Love You") would return him to the #1 position as a songwriter the next year, but although his contributions to pop music tailed off, his material proved timeless enough to revisit. Sadly, an on-stage accident in 1990 left Mayfield in a wheelchair, and he died in 1999 from a number of health ailments.


Andy and David Williams - "What's Your Name" What's Your Name - Andy & David Williams

(Debuted #98, Peaked #92, 4 Weeks on chart)



It seems the artist link above needs to be corrected. That link goes to the singer Andy Williams' entry and is credited there as a duet featuring him. That's not the case here; there is definitely an Andy Williams singing here, but he and David Williams are actually the then-14 year-old nephews of the "other" Andy Williams.

"What's Your Name" is a remake of a 1962 Don & Juan hit that reached #7. It's performed in a style you'd expect by two 14 year-olds. In fact, it's similar vocally to another singer associated with the more established Andy Williams: Donny Osmond. The backing music is laid down by established L.A.-based studio performers and is mixed high enough to drown out the limitations of the pubescent vocalists.

Andy and David Williams stayed in the music business, and returned to the Hot 100 in 1992 as The Williams Brothers. Their song, "Can't Cry Hard Enough," bettered their 1970s teen idol chart run but just fell two places short of the Top 40.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rewind -- June 17, 1972

It's Wednesday...which means it's time to feature another post from the first year I wrote this blog and bring it up to date.

More than half...

Nine new songs debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. More than half (five) would be Top 40 hits. More than half of those (three) would make the Top 10. And More than half of those hits (two) would make it to #1. One of those chart-toppers would feature lyrics about death and suicide, the other about a young lady who was saving herself for a man who'd never come back for her. Among the other hits: a 2-sided single by Paul McCartney that was a nursery rhyme, a New York-based group whose singer was sounding a lot like McCartney, a Grass Roots song that sounded almost exactly like one of their previous hits, a Latin-flavored remake of a classic '60s tune and a song from a guy best known for fronting the Shondells.

If you'd like to check out the Hot 100 and see what other songs were hits at the time, the June 17, 1972 edition is available at Google Books. The complete Hot 100 list is on page 73. A front-page story explains that Motown was about to move its main offices to Los Angeles and leave a skeleton crew at its famed Detroit location. On page 65 is a discussion about how the newest single from John Lennon that had what we now call "the N-word" in the title was getting some brushback from radio stations, jukebox operators and retailers wary of the controversy from having the word on the record. It's actually a very interesting article.

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Looking Glass - "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" (Not Available on MP3)

(Debuted #68, Peaked #1, 16 Weeks on chart)



This big hit was a story song. Brandy is a girl who works as a waitress in a bar that sits near a naval base. Despite the come-ons from the sailor boys frequenting the joint, she chooses to remain true to the one man she loved. The only problem was that he wasn't willing to give up life on the seas for her. So she continues to wear his chain and hope he'll return to her someday. Featuring nice group harmonies and some horns that backed up the band without being overly intrusive, the song has aged better than many other 1972 hits.

Looking Glass was a band formed in New Jersey by four Rutgers students. After graduation, they decided to stay together and play local clubs and bars along the Jersey shore. After a couple of years, they were signed to Epic Records by famed impresario Clive Davis and released a few singles that failed to chart. Their third failed single was called "Don't it Make You Feel Good," which failed to attract any attention outside the group's home base until a Washington, D.C. DJ turned it over one day and got a positive response from his audience. "Brandy" broke out from there and would become one of the biggest hits that summer.

The irony about having a B-side hit that big is that casual fans didn't realize the group was a harder-edged act than their hits indicated. Since "Brandy" was essentially a throw-away, the people who only knew Looking Glass from their exposure on AM hit radio didn't always realize they were a Jersey club band. That eventually alienated fans and stalled later singles.

Here's an interesting bit of information about this song...earlier in 1972, Scott English would reach the lower reaches of the Hot 100 with a song he wrote. Called "Brandy," (featured in this blog in 2011) it was a different song altogether from the Looking Glass hit. However, in 1974 it was slated to be covered by another Brooklyn native, Barry Manilow (at the behest of Clive Davis, who was then running Manilow's record label). By then, the title "Brandy" was identified with the Looking lass hit, so Manilow suggested the song be called "Mandy" to avoid any confusion.  


The Grass Roots - "The Runway" (Not Available on MP3)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #39, 9 Weeks on chart)



After several radio-friendly hits during the late 1960s and early 1970s, The Grass Roots had established a sound that was familiar to those who listened to AM radio during those years. Singer Rob Grill's voice was a constant presence, as were the studio tricks of co-producers/group mentors Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan. However, as the years wore on, the songs began to have a similar sound despite occasional tweaks and updates to the sound.

For instance, listeners hearing "The Runway" may have wondered if they were listening to the band's earlier hit "Two Divided By Love." The instrumental opening sounds a lot like "Divided," the vocals, harmonies and some of the instruments sound like they were simply borrowed from it as well. Both songs were written by new producers Brian Lambert and Dennis Potter, but that doesn't excuse the similarities. As a result, "The Runway" would be the band's final Top 40 hit and by 1973 they were regularly missing the Hot 100 entirely.

Argent - "Hold Your Head Up" Argent - The Argent Anthology: A Collection of Greatest Hits - Hold Your Head Up

(Debuted #82, Peaked #5, 15 Weeks on chart)



Considering how widely played this song is even today, it's surprising to know that "Hold Your Head Up" was the only song Argent ever charted in the Hot 100. Consisting of Rod Argent and Chris White (both former members of the 1960s British Invasion group The Zombies) and singer/songwriter Russ Ballard, many fans would think the band had scored some additional hits.

Noted for its slow-march rhythm, its guitar lines that are actually backing up the keyboards as lead instrument and the mantra-like "Hold your head up...HIGH" chant, the song would become synonymous with the Summer of '72. Years after its release, it still finds its way into period documentaries (such as those covering the kidnapping and murder of that year's Israeli Olympic team in Munich). It continues to be remembered, long after many of the songs charting alongside it have been forgotten.

Among Argent's other songs were "Liar," which became a big hit for Three Dog Night, and "God Gave Rock & Roll to You," best-known for its version by the group Kiss. Ballard's later songs included "Since You've Been Gone" (a three-time Hot 100 hit by three other artists) and America's last Top 10 hit "You Can Do Magic."


Stories - "I'm Coming Home" (Not Available on MP3)

(Debuted #83, Peaked #42, 12 Weeks on chart)



Stories are remembered as a one-hit wonder for their biggest hit, "Brother Louie."  While that #1 hit about an interracial relationship would be their only song to reach the Top 40, they had three other singles chart of the Hot 100. The group's first hit "I'm Coming Home" would be the highest-charting of those. While the group was new, former Left Banke member Michael Browne was the keyboard player.

For a band that was admittedly influenced by The Fab Four, "I'm Coming Home" was quite Beatlesque. While Ian Lloyd sang it, he sounds like he's trying to channel Paul McCartney -- "I'm Down" at a lower amplitude -- the piano solo sounds like it was a "Rocky Raccoon" outtake and the song's final note was a discordant one, like "A Day in the Life" but not as sustained. Surprisingly, the song doesn't come off as a blatant Beatles rip-off despite all those elements.

Wings - "Mary Had A Little Lamb" b/w "Little Woman Love" (Not Available on MP3)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #28, 7 Weeks on chart)



And here's the video for the record's B-Side:



Speaking of Paul McCartney...

Not content with being popular among the fans who'd grown up listening to his music, Paul McCartney attempted to get in the good graces of the preschool  set as well. Legend has it that Macca recorded a children's song as a result of the BBC banning his previous single "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" due to its partisan content. However, McCartney has claimed in interviews that "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was already on tape before that ban was handed down, but the rumor persists.

While the "ban this, BBC!" theory sounds great, it could be that McCartney -- who had three kids at home -- came up with the idea while playing his role as father. In any case, it's a testament to the fact that many of his fans were buying anything with his name on it to see an electrified lullaby making the Top 40. The B-side "Little Woman Love" was helpful to radio programmers who weren't enthusiastic about playing a kiddie song to an audience that had outgrown it. As an uptempo piano boogie tune, "Little Woman Love" was passable enough for a pop tune even if it was a little disappointing by the one ex-Beatle known for his sense of melody.

Originally, neither song would be included on any Wings or McCartney LP (including Greatest Hits compilations) until a 2001 CD re-release of Wild Life that added both songs from this single and "Give Ireland Back to the Irish."

Gilbert O'Sullivan - "Alone Again (Naturally)" Gilbert O'Sullivan - The Virgin Suicides (Music from the Motion Picture) - Alone Again (Naturally)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)



Though many people remember this song for its familiar tune, what is often missed is the fact that the narrator of this story is feeling suicidal. Having been left at the altar on his wedding day, he's contemplating throwing himself off a tower.After that, the song veers off to other sad topics like the deaths of parents. Americans looked past all that morbidity and made the song one of the year's biggest hits, #1 for six weeks.

While "Alone Again" was the first U.S. hit for O'Sullivan, the Irish-born singer had been placing hits at home, in the U.K. and across Europe since 1970. At the time, he was using an image that cast him as a street-corner vendor during the Depression era. With Today, the LP that contained "Alone Again," O'Sullivan changed his "look" to a college glee club member, complete with a letterman's sweater prominently displaying a "G." That would be the way many Americans would remember him during his career.

Looking past the dark nature of the song's lyrics, a light melody carries the words, accompanied by a very understated acoustic guitar solo. Perhaps the musical part of the song is what helped buoy its success. A lot of songs about death and disaster would become hits during the 1970s, but few ("Seasons in the Sun" would be an exception) were what anybody could call understated. While many of those songs played out like made-for-TV melodrama, "Alone Again" sounds like its narrator has come to grips with the fact that death is simply what happens at the end of life and is doing his best to cope with it. In the end, it's likely a deeper song than many give it credit.

Vigrass and Osbourne - "Men Of Learning" (Not Available as MP3)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #65, 7 Weeks on chart)



Paul Vigrass and Gary Osbourne were British singer/songwriters. Together, they formed a duet between 1972 and '74 and released two LPs. The first, called Queues, contained their only Hot 100 listing "Men of Learning." Asking the musical question "Where are all the men of learning?" at a time when the world still seemed to be reeling from the events of the 1960s, it sounds very much like a Crosby, Stills & Nash song with its harmonies, instrumentation and topic. The B-side was "Forever Autumn," a song that would chart in 1978 when Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues recorded it (reviewed on this blog in 2010).

After splitting in 1974, Vigrass would become the lead singer of Quasar for a short time in the early 1980s. Osbourne continued writing, most notably as one of Elton John's post-Bernie Taupin collaborators. His words appeared on Elton's LPs from 1978-'82 and included the hits "Part Time Love," "Little Jeannie" and "Blue Eyes."

El Chicano - "Brown Eyed Girl" El Chicano - 20th Century Masters - The Christmas Collection: The Best of El Chicano - Brown-Eyed Girl

(Debuted #90, Peaked #45, 7 Weeks on chart)



One of my favorite 1970s films was 1978's Up in Smoke. While El Chicano didn't make a personal appearance in Cheech & Chong's stoner comedy, they made their way into the script. After Pedro (Cheech) picks up the hitchhiking Man (Chong), they talk about Pedro's band and its stylistic "diversity." "Yeah, we play everything...from Santana to El Chicano. You know, like everything!"

El Chicano was a Latin-influenced soul band from Los Angeles. Since their style was often referred to as "brown-eyed soul," it made sense for the band to record their take on Van Morrison's 1967 classic "Brown Eyed Girl." A smoother, more laid-back take on Morrison's tremendously familiar song, El Chicano's version adds a piano, some Latin percussion a Santana-lite guitar part and some vocal embellishments to give it a much different vibe. While giving the song a feel like it was being played at a backyard barbecue or block party, it still comes off nicely.



Tommy James - "Cat's Eye In The Window" Tommy James - 40 Years - Cat's Eye In The Window

(Debuted #100, Peaked #90, 4 Weeks on chart)



After his group The Shondells broke up in 1970, Tommy James kept himself busy with his solo projects as well as writing and producing for other acts. While his solo chart singles were often hit-and-miss, they were usually cut from the same cloth as the work that made him and his band among the biggest singles acts just before the advent of the album-oriented rock wave. Gone were the psychedelic flourishes that marked hits like "Crimson and Clover" and "Crystal Blue Persuasion," but James did his best to stay current as the 1970s kicked into high gear. Sometimes his material worked ("Draggin' the Line," Alive & Kickin's "Tighter, Tighter"), and sometimes they didn't resonate with the audience. Nevertheless, Tommy James stayed true to his art.

"Cat's Eye in the Window" would be one of James's lesser hits of the era. Only reaching #90, few beyond his fan base paid it much attention. However, the lyrics are worth checking out. Telling a tale about seeing a three hundred year-old mansion that had fallen into disrepair, it makes one wonder if the song was about the decline of the United States. After the events of the 1960s, that may not have been an uncommon feeling.

The LP version of the song had a great electric piano solo (evocative of "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors) but the single version sadly omits that.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

This Week's Review -- June 17, 1978

There were nine new singles in this week's Hot 100. Six of those reached into the Top 40, with two making the Top 10 and one going all the way to #1. That #1 was the only chart-topper for Motown Records for all of 1978. Four songs are from first-timers to the chart, and all would return in the future with varying degrees of success. Other, more established acts are here as well, including Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, Tom Petty and Andrew Gold.

Although there is a large archive of Billboard magazines available over at Google Books, the June 17, 1978 edition is missing. Once again, I'll give a plug to my other music-related blog, 80s Music Mayhem. That blog is coursing its way through the decade for the ninth time, having just spent a week in 1987. Up next...'88 and a rather eclectic group of styles. Check it out if you're into the decade.

MP3's at CDUniverse.com

Barbra Streisand - "Songbird" Songbird - Song Bird

(Debuted #67, Peaked #25, 10 Weeks on chart)



Barbra Streisand was in a rather prolific period of her career in 1978. Not only did she record her LP Songbird, but she also recorded music for the soundtrack of the film The Eyes of Laura Mars and issued her second Greatest Hits compilation. In fact, the Laura Mars soundtrack appeared soon after Songbird, and the lead singles from both projects battled each other on the charts. This has been given as teh reason neither song made the Top 20 in a period when "Babs" was at her commercial peak.

Not the similarly-named Fleetwood Mac song from Rumours, this was a ballad written by Steve Nelson and David Wolpert that was solidly suited for Streisand's style. Though it fell short of the pop Top 20, it was her fifth #1 single on the adult contemporary chart.


The Commodores - "Three Times a Lady" Three Times a Lady - The Commodores: Anthology

(Debuted #73, Peaked #1, 20 Weeks on chart)



Showing how far Motown had fallen from its place in the 1960s, consider that "Three Times a Lady" was the only Top 10 pop single the label had in all of 1978. The Commodores made the hit count, however: it went to #1 on the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts, as well as in the U.K.

According to the backstory, "Three Times a Lady" was supposedly written on the occasion of an anniversary of Lionel Richie's parents. During a reception, Richie's father made a comment that stayed with his son enough to inspire the Commodores' first chart-topper. Here's hoping that he bought them a nice gift with the royalties.

The song was one of The Commodores' biggest and best-known hits, and helped set a standard for their future success. At first, they were primarily a funk-based band but once the ballads began outselling the dance jams, the soundalike material followed. Though "Three Times a Lady" wasn't the first -- the band already hit with "Sweet Love," "Just to Be Close to You" and "Easy" -- it encouraged future hits like "Sail On" and "Still" as well as several of Richie's solo hits during the 1980s. And all of them were huge sellers.


Wings - "I've Had Enough" I've Had Enough - London Town

(Debuted #81, Peaked #25, 11 Weeks on chart)



After the multi-platinum success of Wings at the Speed of Sound and the band's subsequent 1976 tour, some changes were in store for Paul McCartney. First of all, guitarist Jimmy McCullough and drummer Joe English left the band during the recording of their next studio LP. Second, Paul and his wife Linda learned they would be having another baby, an event that required them to change their plans for any touring in the near future. So, stripped back down to the same trio that recorded Band On the Run, Wings made an album that was a solid effort even if it wasn't ranked with their best by fans.

"I've Had Enough" was the second single from London Town and an underrated rocker that may have been unappreciated in an age of Disco. McCartney seemed to pay attention to that lesson, releasing more dance-oriented material as singles for his next album,

Gene Cotton with Kim Carnes - "You're a Part of Me" You're a Part of Me - Save the Dancer

(Debuted #83, Peaked #36, 12 Weeks on chart)



"You're a Part of Me" marks the first appearance of Kim Carnes on the pop chart, but it wasn't exactly "new." Carnes wrote the song and had originally recorded it as a solo performance on her self-titled 1975 LP and had a minor hit with it on the adult contemporary chart that year. In 1978, the song appeared as a duet with Gene Cotton and helped bring her unique voice to a wider audience. 

This time around, the song was recorded for Cotton's album Save the Dancer. At the time, Cotton was the better-known performer and had a small handful of Hot 100 singles. The next decade, however, saw him move to Nashville and became more devoted to his family and charity while Carnes racked up several hit singles that made her a bigger "name" among music fans. That road began with "You're a Part of Me," where Carnes' rasp overpowers Cotton's smooth vocal style in several places.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "I Need to Know" I Need to Know - You're Gonna Get It

(Debuted #85, Peaked #41, 10 Weeks on chart)



By 1978, there was a focus in the music business on dance-length singles and "extended" 12-inch records. However, in the middle of all that, here comes Tom Petty with a focused record that clocked in at less than two and a half minutes yet sounds like it was longer due to its energy.

Taken from the band's second LP You're Gonna Get it!, "I Need to Know" just missed the Top 40. It comes off as a simple riff, but that's part of what made it great. Especially in an era where bands liked to show their complexity and the depth of their instrumental virtuosity.


Andrew Gold - "Never Let Her Slip Away" Never Let Her Slip Away - All This and Heaven Too

(Debuted #86, Peaked #67, 8 Weeks on chart)



When MTV started its programming on August 1, 1981, one of the promotional videos that was played during the first day was Andrew Gold's "Never Let Her Slip Away." In fact, it was one of three songs from Gold played during that day. His inclusion wasn't necessarily because he was influential with the early days of the music video; rather, MTV played anything that was available to it during that start-up period before it developed into the iconic cable channel, even material from the previous decade.

That said, "Never Let Her Slip Away" is a decent pop song about the euphoria that hits when you fall in love. Undercut by a rolling keyboard riff and punctuated by a saxophone solo and background crooning, the song is an example of the classic songwriting style that Gold likely picked up by watching his parents (both were long-time show business veterans) in action. By that, I mean that it doesn't really sound as much like a 1970s artifact as it does a generic well-crafted pop song.


Evelyn "Champagne" King - "Shame" Shame (12

(Debuted #87, Peaked #9, 19 Weeks on chart)



"Shame" was the debut single for Evelyn "Champagne" King, a 17 year-old singer from Philadelphia whose voice sounded much more mature than it was. According to the backstory, King was working with her mother as a cleaning lady in a recording studio and was "discovered" by a producer who heard her singing as she dumped trash out of a can in the building.   

The song was included on King's 1977 debut LP Smooth Talk but wasn't a hit until it was remixed into a 12-inch single for the disco market that laid a heavier emphasis on the beat. Once the transitional bridge kicked in and the catchy chorus made its way into the heads of dancers, the song was undeniable and became a dancefloor classic. It eventually made the Top 10 of Billboard's pop, dance and R&B surveys and started  King on a career that took her from the Disco era to the electronic dance material that replaced it.


The Cars - "Just What I Needed" Just What I Needed - The Cars

(Debuted #90, Peaked #27, 17 Weeks on chart)



The debut single for The Cars was written by group member Ric Ocasek but sung by bassist Ben Orr. In an era where many new (non-disco) bands were deciding whether to take their sound in a rock-oriented or New Wave direction, this Boston band went in both directions. That suited them well as a new decade approached, and made them one of the more exciting and innovative acts of the 1980s. 

"Just What I Needed" was one of several classic songs found on the group's self-titled LP. The mix of synthesizers and rock stylings has given it airplay on several formats (even letting it sneak in as a 1980s hit even though it's from before that decade). One neat effect in the song shows up in the final verse: the drums change, hitting on the first and third beats instead of the second and fourth as used in the rest of the song, before reverting to its original format in the final chorus. The change is noticeable after Orr sings the line "Wasting all my time, time" in that verse.


Spyro Gyra - "Shaker Song" Shaker Song - Spyro Gyra

(Debuted #92, Peaked #90, 5 Weeks on chart)



Spyro Gyra's story begins in Buffalo, New York around 1974. Saxophonist Jay Beckstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall were part of a combo where all the members were active in the local jazz community. A promoter asked for the name of the group, and when Beckstein suggested the biology term "spirogyra," it ended up being misspelled on the marquee. The band kept it, and despite some membership changes grew into a full-time pursuit.

"Shaker Song" was already two years old, the first track off the band's self-titled 1976 debut LP. The record was slow to sell originally but sales remained steady enough to keep the song in the public eye. A smooth jazz instrumental with a slight Caribbean rhythm and Calypso-styled breakdown, It exemplifies the sound the group has cultivated for more than three decades.