Saturday, September 5, 2009

This Week's Review: Sept. 6, 1975

There were 14 singles debuting in the Billboard Hot 100 this week-- okay, 13 new singles and one that was returning after falling off a few weeks before. Additionally, three of those new singles were two-sided. That may seem like a lot of chart action; however, every week of 1975 between June 14 and this week had at least 10 new debut records and two of the weeks in June also saw 14 new singles. So infusion of new music into the countdown was normal.

In all, the entire slate of new records was a decent cross section of 1970s popular music. The genres included disco, country, R&B, funk, Southern Rock, AOR, rock and even a novelty number. Let's review the new hits of the week:

Chicago - "Brand New Love Affair (Part I & II)" Chicago - Chicago VIII - Brand New Love Affair, Pts. 1 & 2

Chicago was a monster act of the 1970s. As the decade progressed, they charted on the Hot 100 28 times. That was more often than acts like The Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Elton John, Elvis Presley or Paul McCartney. As a performing act, only James Brown placed more singles on the chart from 1970-'79-- 37 of them -- than the group that named itself after the Windy City. Of those 28 chart records, 21 of them made it to the Top 40 (behind only Elton John and Sir Paul, who each made 24 trips into the 40). From 1970-'75, all 16 of Chicago's chart entries made the Top 40. Until "Brand New Love Affair," that is. It didn't get higher than #61.

This was one of many singles of the 1970s that was broken up into two parts. The success of long-running songs on FM radio formats and also hits like "American Pie" had created a need for record companies to fit longer pieces onto 7-inch discs. This was often accomplished by strategically "splitting" the song but eventually, some artists made longer jams that were essentially two songs spliced together so they'd be easily dissected on record. "Brand New Love Affair" was one of those songs. The first part is much slower than Chicago's major hits to that point, with no sign of the horns that made them famous behind Terry Kath's vocal. As the second part of the song kicks in, it sounds more like what fans expected in a Chicago song: the brass section shows up, Peter Cetera takes over the singing duties and the pace picks up. Despite the limitations of the 3-minute "made-for-radio" single, the composition as an LP track was flat.

The album that included the song, Chicago VIII (remember the way they used to number all their albums?) was #1 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart but was panned as a weaker imitation of Chicago VII. Of the three singles released from the LP, "Brand New Love Affair" was the only one that missed the Top 40: its followup "Harry Truman" was a moderate success and "Old Days" returned the group to the Top 10. Interestingly, many of Chicago's LPs are available on Amazon for digital download; however, Chicago VIII is not one of them.

Rusty Wier - "Don't it Make You Wanna Dance" (Not available as MP3)

Rusty Wier wasn't a bad pun; he was a Texas troubadour who was among the acts that came out of Austin (along with Jerry Jeff Walker and Michael Murphey) during the 1970s. This song was his only appearance on the Hot 100 and didn't make much of an impression there; however, it has been covered many times, most notably by Bonnie Raitt (who sang it live during a scene in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy). Although his records have become hard to find and his music isn't available in digital form, Wier is still touring today.

Sly Stone - "I Get High on You" Sly & The Family Stone - The Essential Sly & the Family Stone - I Get High on You

This song is significant for two reasons: first, it was Sly Stone's first chart appearance without his backup group The Family Stone. Second, it would be the last time he'd show up in Billboard's Hot 100. Despite a long period of groundbreaking music, years of excess and the toll of the road had left their mark and fractured the band.

Since 1968, Sly & the Family Stone were among the groups that defined funk. It's been written that Stone and James Brown originated most of the grooves that have propelled funk and hip-hop ever since. As a song, "I Get High on You" is a great funky tune which holds its own against other 1975 funk jams like "Up For the Down Stroke," "Skin Tight" or "Machine Gun." It's also worth noting that by 1975, Larry Graham -- Stone's old bass player from The Family -- was fronting Graham Central Station and pushing the limits of funk on his own. Although Sly Stone was leaving funk's center stage, his disciples would carry the flag for years to come.

Leon Haywood - "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" Leon Haywood - The Best of Funk Essentials: Funky Stuff - I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You

While Sly Stone may have helped lay the foundation for funk, this song had lasting power. The instrumental intro would surface again nearly 20 years later as part of the Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg composition "Nothin' But a G Thang." I'll call it a "composition" since I'm not a huge fan of rap or the lifestyle it espouses, but there's no denying the fact that the instrumental bit lifted from "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" was damned catchy.

The song "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" appeared on the radio in the same era as other suggestive hits like "Jungle Fever," "Pillow Talk" and "Let's Get it On" and along with Barry White's persona, there was a lot of sexual steam on the airwaves (those of you who missed the 1970s, take a listen to these tunes the next time your parents tell you that there wasn't anything suggestive like music today). While the music behind Haywood sets a mood, the moaning female background singers only accent exactly what "freaky" stuff he's singing about.

It's great song, no matter what era we're discussing.

Linda Ronstadt - "Heat Wave" Linda Ronstadt - Prisoner In Disguise - Heat Wave b/w "Love is a Rose" Linda Ronstadt - Prisoner In Disguise - Love Is a Rose

Using two sides of a single to satisfy two different formats is something that has been lost in today's digital age. Today, when an artist wants to have songs played on different formats (for instance, Taylor Swift or Shania Twain), the record company takes the same song and remixes it with different instrumentation. Listen to the different versions of Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much" (or better yet, don't...and just take my word for it) and you'll hear two different songs but the exact same vocals.

In the 1970s, some artists used their single releases to maximum effect. Olivia Newton-John and Elvis Presley were among the acts using one side for rock/pop stations and another for country, and Linda Ronstadt was another. With this single, "Heat Wave" (a faithful cover of the 1960s hit by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas) was the pop song, and Neil Young-penned "Love is a Rose" was the one destined for country radio. Both peaked at #5 on their respective Billboard charts.

Dickie Goodman - "Mr. Jaws" Dickie Goodman - Dickie Goodman's All Time Novelty Hits - Mr. Jaws

Dickie Goodman made his name by inventing the "break-in" record. Taking a cue from the classic 1938 radio show War of the Worlds, Goodman made a record interspersing current hits with "reports" of a UFO landing by DJs and reporters. "The Flying Saucer" was such a hit in 1958 that Goodman continued making "break-in" records for the next 30 years. Among the topics of his novelty recordings in the 1970s were Watergate, the energy crisis, President Nixon and anything else that suited him.

In 1975, Goodman had his biggest "hit" with "Mr. Jaws." That summer, the film Jaws was breaking box-office records, so Goodman's "roving reporter" went to work asking questions of various characters from the movie. The artists involved in the "answers" were Olivia Newton-John, James Taylor, War, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Captain & Tennille, Glen Campbell, The Eagles, The Bee Gees, 10cc, Melissa Manchester and John Williams (with his main theme from the film).

The song was a smash, quickly making it all the way to #4 on the charts. Unfortunately, it dropped off the charts as quickly as it rose and was one of few Top 5 records that didn't make its year-end Top 100 list.

Pat Lundi - "Party Music" (Not available as MP3)

I've never heard this song. When I've looked for info about Pat Lundi, I find nothing, even on So...I'm moving on.

John Fogerty - "Rockin' All Over the World" John Fogerty - The Long Road Home - The Ultimate John Fogerty & Creedance Collection - Rockin' All Over the World

This an incredibly catchy tune. It's one of those songs you can listen to a few times straight without getting annoyed by it (remember the way you could set up a record player to automatically drop the needle back on a single once it was finished?). "I like it, I like it, I like it, I li-i like it" indeed.

Of course, the song sounds exactly like an amped-up Creedence Clearwater Revival. That's because Fogerty was the guiding light behind the group. While Fogerty's song may have been great for CCR fans after the group had split three years before, Fogerty's "comeback" career was short-lived. The owner of CCR's former label (and also the owner of the group's catalog) sued Fogerty for "ripping off" "plagiarizing" songs Fogerty had written in the first place. It would be another decade before John Fogerty returned with a new LP.

The Sunshine Band - "Shotgun Shuffle" KC & The Sunshine Band - KC & The Sunshine Band: 25th Anniversary Collection - Shotgun Shuffle (Single/LP Version)

Among 1975's biggest newcomers were two Miami-based producers and artists named Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch. In addition to their group KC & the Sunshine Band ("KC" came about by Casey's last name), the duo produced George McCrae's #1 smash "Rock Your Baby." As their group was hitting #1 with "Get Down Tonight" their record label decided to get some more product out for the new group's fans. As a result, an all-instrumental LP called The Sounds of Sunshine (featuring KC's "backup band") was quickly shipped.

If the album meant to capitalize on the success of "Get Down Tonight," it failed; "Shotgun Shuffle" was gone from the chart two weeks later. Undaunted, TK records issued another KC & the Sunshine Band LP and "That's the Way (I Like it)" was #1 before the end of the year.

ABBA - "S.O.S" ABBA - Gold - Greatest Hits - S.O.S.

Here's a bit of trivia for you. This is the only chart hit of the 1970s (or any other era, as far as I know) where both the artist and song title are palindromes. This wasn't exactly a debut, since S.O.S. had appeared in the Hot 100 for two weeks in August before dropping off. This time around, the single made its way to #15.

For all the worldwide success ABBA has gotten over the years, it's easily forgotten that their chart performance in the U.S. was something of a disappointment for the group. For all their #1 singles in Europe and elsewhere, they managed to only get a single week at the top of the U.S. charts ("Dancing Queen" in 1977) and only a handful of Top 10 hits.

The melody of "S.O.S." reappeared in the late 1980s when a European dance hit called "Bring Me Edelweiss" used it.

Smokey Robinson - "The Agony & the Ecstasy" Smokey Robinson - A Quiet Storm - The Agony and the Ecstasy

This slow, sensual ballad was the last of three hits from Smokey's LP A Quiet Storm. Although his star had dimmed on the pop charts since his departure from The Miracles, Robinson was still one of the major powers that shaped soul music. In fact, the album's title was soon incorporated into a new radio format of mellow R&B called quiet storm.

After peaking at #36 with this song, fans of Smokey Robinson had to wait until 1980 to see him return to the pop Top 40.

The Outlaws - "There Goes Another Love Song" The Outlaws - Outlaws - There Goes Another Love Song

Southern rock was never bigger than it was in the mid 1970s. Even groups that weren't from the South -- like The Eagles -- were using the genre to help fill out their sound. The Outlaws were a group from Tampa, Florida who tried to use Eagles-styled harmonies and a guitar attack reminiscent of The Allman Brothers Band. This song -- one that still gets heavy radio attention today -- is a fine example.

An interesting thing about "There Goes Another Love Song" that casual fans may not know: Hughie Thomasson (who sings lead on the song) was not the group's regular lead singer. In fact, he only handled lead duties on a few songs. However, because this was one of the group's most recognizable tunes, his voice is often equated with the group.

Ralph Carter - "When You're Young and in Love" (not available as MP3)

This was the same Ralph Carter who played Michael Evans on the TV show Good Times. The song was written by Van McCoy (the man who had hit big with "The Hustle" a year earlier) and had been a hit in 1967 for The Marvelettes. Although the disco-ish tune was expected to get some interest from young female fans of his show, the single only lasted three weeks on teh Hot 100 and reached #95. Ralph Carter did manage to get another disco hit with "Extra Extra" but soon went back to his acting gig.

There's a YouTube video of Ralph Carter singing this song on Soul Train. It's worth searching out.

Jessi Colter - "What's Happened to Blue Eyes" Jessi Colter - Jessi Colter Collection - What's Happened to Blue Eyes b/w "You Ain't Never Been Loved (Like I'm Gonna Love You" (Not available as MP3)

Jessi Colter was better known as the wife of Waylon Jennings (and the mother of Shooter Jennings) but in 1975 she had great success with her LP I'm Jessi Colter. "I'm Not Lisa" was a huge hit earlier in the year, but this two-sided followup faded at #57. On the country chart, it reached #5. After this single, there would be no more Jessi Colter songs in the Hot 100 but she was still hitting the country charts. In fact, in 1976, she and her husband teamed with Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser to record Wanted! The Outlaws! A landmark album, it would be the first country LP to be awarded platinum status.

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