Saturday, June 4, 2011

This Week's Review -- June 3, 1972

This week, nine new singles debuted in the Billboard Hot 100, with six of them eventually making the Top 40. Two of them also worked their way into the Top 10, so the group here is pretty familiar for the most part. There are a few of R&B hits here, but they're all different: one is about justifying an adulterous relationship, one is about the aftermath of a breakup and the last isn't about relationships at all. The very first Eagles single is still played frequently on radio stations today, while Alice Cooper's single is very popular around this time of year for obvious reasons. A man whose name was taken from an American pioneer but was actually a British subject is a great example of post-bubblegum confection. The three singles that missed the Top 40 are all interesting in their own right as well. One features an Apple artist who never had another hit, another is a two-sided instrumental from a man who was instrumental (bad pun, but it's true) in crafting Motown's more socially aware direction in the late 1960s, and the last is from a 1960s singer/songwriter who was likely ahead of her time.

Among the archive of Billboard issue over at Google Books is the June 3, 1972 edition. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 54. Page 18 begins part of an interview with Bill Drake, a man who had quite an impact on the way radio stations work today. He's one of those people who are either loved or hated by radio professionals, but it's an interesting read regardless. Finally, this headline appears on Page 24: "See 8-Track Decline By 1985." Actually, it didn't even take that long. Other predictions in that article involved the development of octophonic sound and the assurance that the phonograph record would be around "forever." One prediction for 1985 that needed longer to come to fruition was the idea that movies would be played on video discs and that TV sets would eventually be flat units that could be mounted on a wall.

Concert Video

Luther Ingram - "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right" (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right - (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right - Single

(Debuted #64, Peaked #3, 16 Weeks on chart)

The YouTube video above shows the live performance Luther Ingram gave for the Wattstax film. It's a great example of how he worked the stage. It also shows the performers of the tremendous music behind his vocals, many of whom were also the musicians from Isaac Hayes' band and backup singers.

"(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" is a song that tells one side of an adulterous relationship. The lyrics go so far as to recognize that the relationship is a mistake (even mentioning that her folks know what's going on and are trying to stop it), but that it doesn't seem that way when they're together.

The song would get a twist two years later when Millie Jackson remade it, telling the story from the side of the woman who's the mistress. It was also remade in a similar vein for the country audience by Barbara Mandrell in 1978.

The Stylistics - "People Make The World Go Round" People Make the World Go Round - The Stylistics - the Original Debut Album

(Debuted #74, Peaked #25, 11 Weeks on chart)

The Stylistics had a very distinctive sound, but sometimes they had some tricks up their sleeves, thanks to Thom Bell's production skills. For instance, "People Make the World Go Round" has a xylophone as a major instrument. They also have a horn section that sounds like it just left a Bacharach/David session.

However, having Russell Thompkins, Jr. sing a song about brotherhood wasn't out of character for the group, nor was having Bell co-write the song with Linda Creed. Actually, the lyrics don't paint a positive picture, with garbage collectors and bus drivers on strike and brokers losing money from their stocks. But then Thompkins points out that the ups and downs are all a part of life...the downs only make the ups better.

Aretha Franklin - "All The King's Horses" All the King's Horses - Young, Gifted and Black

(Debuted #75, Peaked #26, 8 Weeks on chart)

It's easy to forget that Aretha Franklin was a great 1970s performer. While her best singles arguably came out during the late 1960s, her early 1970s LPs are some of the finest she's ever recorded. "All the King's Horses" is one of the tracks on one of her best, Young, Gifted & Black. Using a familiar line from the "Humpty Dumpty" nursery rhyme, Franklin is credited for writing the lyrics about a love whose flame has gone out.

In the lyrics, Aretha is able to show off her considerable range. From using a soft, tender voice to deliver the verses, she opens up during the choruses to show off the gospel-influenced vocal we all know she had. All the while, she tells the story of how the safe and secure partnership two people knew just fell apart.

The Eagles - "Take It Easy" Take It Easy - Eagles

(Debuted #79, Peaked #12, 11 Weeks on chart)

"Take it Easy" can be called a pacesetter. It was the first song on the first Eagles LP, as well as the band's debut single. It's also one of their best-known tunes.

Jackson Browne began writing the song for his first album, and when his neighbor and friend Glenn Frey heard it, he thought it was great. The two finished the lyrics together and Browne let Frey use it for his own group's record. Browne eventually recorded a version of the song for a later LP, but it had pretty much been consumed as an Eagles song by then.

Frey was the one who included the bit about Winslow, Arizona in the second verse. In Winslow, there is a statue on a corner commemorating the song, with a painted "reflection" in a window of a red pickup truck.

Alice Cooper - "School's Out" School's Out - School's Out

(Debuted #88, Peaked #7, 13 Weeks on chart)

When I was a kid, this song seemed to get played every year around June (hence, the record's release date), when our school was letting out for the summer. A few radio stations would play it, but more likely it was a record that one of my friends owned. I still remember the feeling of those last few days of school every year, when it seemed even the teachers were ready for the damned thing to be over.

It's a classic song because it's universal. Everybody who's gone to a public school knows the feeling when the end of classes come around. For me, I love some of the lines, like "We've got no principals" (using a dual meaning for that word), and then following it up a couple of lines later with "We can't even think of a word that rhymes!" Not exactly high art, but that's just a great line.

There are a couple of people who get overlooked about the song's creation, though. Cooper's guitarist Glen Buxton originated the distinctive guitar riff that opens the song and is just as much of an attention-getter as the subject. Also, producer Bob Ezrin came up with the idea of using a children's chorus on the song. He would use that again in another classic "school is over" song at the end of the decade, Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."

Lastly, there is a slight difference between the (now familiar) LP version and the single release. At the very end of the song, there is a gradual slowing down of the effects, and it sounds like the tape is winding down as it stops. In the single version, the song fades out before that slowdown.

Chris Hodge - "We're On Our Way" We're On Our Way - Come and Get It - The Best of Apple Records (Remastered)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #44, 8 Weeks on chart)

"We're On Our Way" was the only U.S. pop hit for English singer/songwriter Chris Hodge. There's not an awful lot of info about Hodge available, other than a mention that he was signed to Apple Records and discovered when Ringo Starr caught his show one day. He didn't chart any LPs and I'm not even sure if he ever had one in the U.S. Although the song peaked outside the pop Top 40 in Billboard, it managed to squeak its way to #36 in Cash Box, so it did get some limited radio play before dropping off the face of the earth.

Beginning with a discordant piano note and voices that sound like they were borrowed from providing the backing music to a suspenseful (but laughingly unrealistic) film of the era, which is probably appropriate considering the lyrics mention a spaceship, flying saucers and astral moonbeams. Though the breathy "Ooh, aah" refrain is a little grating, the song isn't all that bad for a person who never returned to the charts. It's worth at least a cursory listen if you've never heard the song before.

Dennis Coffey - "Getting It On" Getting It On - Absolutely the Best of Dennis Coffey b/w "Ride, Sally, Ride" Ride, Sally, Ride - Absolutely the Best of Dennis Coffey

(Debuted #97, Peaked #93, 4 Weeks on chart)

Since this is a two-sided hit, the B-Side has its own YouTube video as well:

This two-sided hit features a pair of instrumentals coming from the distinctive guuitar stylings of Dennis Coffey, who's had a bigger effect on popular music than many might realize. The Deroit-born guitarist was one of the msuicians that made up Motown's famed "house band," The Funk Brothers. In fact, it was Coffey who introduced a harder-edged electric guitar sound to Motown hits like "Cloud Nine," "Ball of Confusion and "War," playing a major part in the "Psychedelic Soul" sound. Away from Motown, he also handled guitar for Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" and other Detroit-besed hits.

These sides are the first to be credited to Coffey himself, rather than his Detroit Guitar band. Both are marked with Coffey's electric guitar and a smilar beat to the one that marked his earlier Astrology-themed hits "Scorpio" and "Taurus." The B-Side is not the familiar song done by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Or if it's a radical reworking.

Jackie DeShannon - "Vanilla Olay" Vanilla O'Lay (Single Version) - Jackie

(Debuted #99, Peaked #76, 9 Weeks on chart)

Sadly, no YouTube video seems to exists for this tune. Since it is available digitally, I am not able to provide a link to an MP3 copy.  However, clicking the Amazon link below will let you hear a 30-second snippet of the song. Fortunately, the clip does a good job of presenting the song, giving a taste of both the verses and chorus...Amazon doesn't always do that.

Jackie DeShannon seems to have been forgotten as a singer/songwriter by many, even though she was doing the job long before celebrated stars like Carly Simon and Carole King (I'm referring to King's singer/songwriter phase here, not her days as a Brill Building songsmith) were. Although her prime hit days seem to have ended during the 1960s, "Vanilla Olay" shows she was still able to put out a catchy song, even if it didn't seem to get too far up the charts. With King and Simon breaking out in the early 1970s, it's odd that DeShannon didn't get a similar boost.

With lyrics that mention taking off and getting away from it all, even if only for a short time, "Vanilla Olay" has a nice 1970s vibe, marked by a hook-laden guitar that punctuates each line of the verses. 

It's worth noting that the 1980s brought one of her songs into the Top 10 once more: Kim Carnes did her own take on "Bette Davis Eyes" and made it the biggest hit in the U.S. for all of 1981.

Daniel Boone - "Beautiful Sunday" Beautiful Sunday - Beautiful Sunday

(Debuted #100, Peaked #15, 20 Weeks on chart)

"Beautiful Sunday" was the biggest of three pop singles in the U.S. for British-born singer Daniel Boone. Listening to it today, it's almost fully infused with a 1970s vibe, with its lyrics about taking a walk and enjoying the surroundings. The song is an upbeat, almost "bubblegum" number that is hard not to have a smile when it comes on.

In fact, while writing this review, I've listened to it three or four times and am too busy digging it than I am trying to write about it. I suppose that's as good of an endorsement as I can give a song.

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