Saturday, July 2, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 4, 1970

On the surface, it may seem like there are a lot of misfires this week. In all, twelve new singles appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, with only one reaching the Top 40. However, many of the songs that missed the pop Top 40 were bigger hits on other charts. Two were #1 country songs, others were R&B hits, two were nice examples of early funk and one was a Top 10 adult contemporary hit. For those who say that there's sometimes more interesting things to uncover when you get past the hits, this week's entry is a way to test out the theory.

Before getting to the songs, I'll take a moment to once again mention that past issues of Billboard are vaialable to read over at Google Books, including the July 4, 1970 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on Page 79. Page 6 has an interesting article. It seems some executives were looking into the idea of using a CATV system to offer pre-recorded music. This was 11 years before MTV began. An article beginning on Page 1 mentions that a Sesame Street LP was coming out at the same time as albums on separate labels by two of the show's cast members, Loretta Long and Bob McGrath. That cast album included the song "Rubber Duckie," which many of us who were kids in the 1970s will remember well (even if not necessarily fondly).

(By the way, there are references that say that this week is the first one used on Casey Kasem's inaugural broadcast of the American Top 40 radio program...but it wasn't. While the first show aired the weekend of July 4, 1970, the chart he used on that first show was actually the survey from the following week.)

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Glen Campbell - "Everything A Man Could Ever Need" Everything a Man Could Ever Need - The Legacy (1961-2002)

(Debuted #80, Peaked #52, 8 Weeks on chart)

I'm not sure why somebody hasn't put a YouTube video out there featuring this song. It's performed in a similar style that Campbell did for many of his hits of that era. In other words, he was in possession of a good formula for hit-making as seemed determined to use it until it ran dry. Or, to put it more succinctly, what you think about this song will depend on what you think about Campbell's music in general. Although this song ended up falling short of the pop Top 40, it managed to reach the Top 10 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart.

"Everything a Man Could Ever Need" was from the movie Norwood, which starred Campbell as a singer who was just getting out of the Marines and ready to try his hand at the music business. He was reunited with his True Grit co-star Kim Darby, and Jet quarterback Joe Namath played his buddy from his days in the Corps. I never saw the movie, but the song seems to be well-suited for the part where the opening credits play before the action gets underway.

The Ides of March - "Superman" Superman - Common Bond

(Debuted #83, Peaked #64, 4 Weeks on chart)

It appears the YouTube video above has no images, just the sound. That's okay, though...for the purpose of this blog, the sound is all that is needed.

When it comes to The Ides of March, most casual fans only know them for their one huge hit, "Vehicle." "Superman" was the followup, and it's not going to make anybody forget the previous hit. At first listen, the group incorporated a lot of the elements of "Vehicle": a vibrant brass section, a strong guitar line, a vocal that was obviously inspired by Blood, Sweat & Tears' David Clayton-Thomas, even the interjection "great Caesar's ghost!" where the earlier hit used "great God in heaven..."

Unfortunately, it's hard to catch lightning in a bottle the second time, especially when BS&T were still racking up the hits and Chicago was just getting warmed up. On its own merit, it's a good song that deserved its status as a regional hit. However, as a followup to "Vehicle" it was probably considered a disappointment. 

Jose Feliciano - "Destiny" Destiny - Light My Fire - The Very Best of José Feliciano b/w "Susie Q" Susie-Q (Digitally Remastered) - Light My Fire - The Very Best of José Feliciano

(Debuted #84, Peaked #83, 2 Weeks on chart)

The B-side of the single is also available via YouTube:

Jose Feliciano is considered to be a ground-breaking artist, but his chart success was short-lived. He had sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before one of the games of the 1968 World Series, but his radical reworking of the familiar tune caused him to be banned from several radio stations. He never had another Top 40 pop hit after that. His chart action consisted of this two-sided single and his recording of the theme for the TV show Chico & the Man. He also recorded the perennial holiday classic "Feliz Navidad" in 1970.

"Destiny" was a declaration of love. It's a wistful tune whose lyrics explained that he was irrevocably stuck in his relationship, but he wasn't complaining about it. A light brass section punctuates the outro nicely. "Susie Q" was a remake of the song most associated with Creedence Clearwater Revival but originally written and performed by Dale Hawkins in 1957. As expected with an interpreter like Feliciano, he took the song and gave it his own flavor, giving it a different arrangement even changing some of the words.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - "Tell it All Brother" Anthology - Kenny Rogers & The First Edition

(Debuted #86, Peaked #17, 11 Weeks on chart)

By the end of the 1970s, Kenny Rogers was one of the biggest stars of country music. At the beginning, he was a member of The First Edition and had tried his hand at several different musical styles. The band's first hit was a psychedelic song, but soon the group was moving around to pop, country and adult contemporary sounds. It was almost as if Rogers was figuring out his surest way to the crossover success he would later have. It took nearly a decade, but he reached it.

"Tell it All Brother" sounds like something you might hear a preacher say at a Christian revival, and the lyrics definitely sound like they could have been delivered at the pulpit. While it was hardly the only song of its time (or, frankly, the best) to try and inspire listeners to be better, it definitely had a philosophical component that wasn't normally heard on Top 40 radio. That alone gives it a little leeway.

The Archies - "Sunshine" Sunshine - Absolutely the Best of the Archies

(Debuted #87, Peaked #57, 7 Weeks on chart)

 A little diversion...I'm too young to have experienced The Archies as a TV act, but the YouTube video above is taken from an episode of the show. Wow, that must have been something for kids to watch if they've been sugared up with Frosted Flakes or Pop Rocks.

The final hit for The Archies featured vocalists Ron Dante and Donna Marie, as well as the studio pros who provided the backing music for the "band." It was done in the same bubblegum style that they were known for. There were five singles released through 1972, but while the "group" was still getting exposure on Saturday mornings, none would make the Hot 100.

Conway Twitty - "Hello Darlin'" Hello Darlin' (Single) - Conway Twitty: The #1 Hits Collection

(Debuted #88, Peaked #60, 8 Weeks on chart)

If something can be said for the show Family Guy, it's the way they introduced Conway Twitty to a new audience. In several episodes, when something goes incredibly wrong, a live clip of Twitty singing one of his songs is introduced as a sort of "distraction." As a result, I have a 12 year-old daughter who recently asked me to play my Conway Twitty compilation CDs in the car one day while we were out taking care of some errands. While that may seem weird -- especially having to explain the sometimes adult subjects in his songs -- there's little doubt about the way Twitty could rope the ladies in with his velvet voice. And my little girl is evidently no exception.

My daughter (born five years after Twitty passed away) absolutely loves "Hello Darlin'." The lyrics about a man who meets his old love and is trying not to let on that he still grieves over the breakup (it was his fault, after all) likely travel over her head, but they make a compelling story. However, she's gone and the narrator still has to accept the cold hard facts of life on his own. However, he's still keeping a fire for her if she ever returns.

Although "Hello Darlin'" never made the pop Top 40, it was a huge #1 country hit and one of Twitty's signature tunes. His delivery of those first two words -- spoken, not sung -- would become a trademark of his and appeared in several songs he recorded in the future.

Charley Pride - "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore" Wonder Could I Live There Anymore - The Essential Charley Pride

(Debuted #90, Peaked #87, 3 Weeks on chart)

JB over at the blog called ...And the Hits Just Keep On Comin' mentioned this song a couple of months ago. Go ahead, read what he had to say about it...I'll still be here when you're finished.

For people who grow up and find their fortunes away from home, this song will be familiar. Even for those who may not have lived on a farm, it's a common occurrence to go back to a world that was once familiar but suddenly seemed to be different after the passage of time. In my own case, the farms around my little hometown in Upstate New York were dairy farms, but I didn't live on one. However, the quiet, small-town feeling there drove me crazy enough to be ready to go as soon as school was over for me. And soon after I graduated, I was on a bus as soon as I was able to leave.

A couple of years later, I went back for a short time before beginning college. The place was still like I'd remembered, but the people went on about their lives without me...the saying about never being able to go home again once you leave came true. Now, growing up is a fond memory (otherwise, I'd never be writing blogs about the nostalgia music brings), but I don't imagine I'd really want to go back there.

I just realized I haven't said anything about this song. "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore" missed the pop Top 40 but was a #1 country hit. However, the topic is universal enough to be understood by other audiences as well. It's a shame it didn't get to reach those larger audiences.

Paul Kelly - "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord" Stealing In the Name of the Lord - Let's Celebrate Life

(Debuted #92, Peaked #49, 9 Weeks on chart)

"Stealing in the Name of the Lord" is probably the best-known song that Paul Kelly ever recorded himself (although he did write "Personally," a 1982 hit for Karla Bonoff), it wasn't originally the side of the single he was promoting. While visiting a Baltimore radio station, the DJ turned over the disc and then played it several times in a row. It ended up being a decent R&B hit even if it wasn't able to duplicate that success on the pop charts.

A song about hypocrisy among certain church leaders, the title was a line in the song "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" a couple years later.

The Meters - "Hand Clapping Song" Hand Clapping Song - Struttin'

(Debuted #93, Peaked #89, 4 Weeks on chart)

The Meters aren't always given the credit they deserve, but they are probably as important to the development of funk as James Brown or Sly Stone. The New Orleans-based group was fronted by Art Neville and used some of the guitar rhythms and bass lines that formed the backbone of the music in years to come.

"Hand Clapping Song" was a cut from the LP Struttin'. Largely an exercise of instrumentation and vocal harmonies, it features a part where Neville scats along with a guitar solo, much like George Benson would do on some of his hits later on. Largely respected by their peers, The Meters were asked to join the Rolling Stones on their tour of the U.S. in 1975 and Europe the following year. Internal struggles broke the band apart in 1977, but the original members occasionally reunite for one-off shows from time to time.

Daybreak - "Good Morning Freedom" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #94, Peaked #94, 1 Week on chart)

This was a re-entry for "Good Morning Freedom" (reviewed here last year) after a couple of weeks spent on the chart in June. Unfortunately, it didn't get any help with its second chance and fell off the Hot 100 for good the next week.

There isn't much info to be found about the group Daybreak. They appear to be an R&B group recording for Uni Records and had both male and female singers. The three weeks they spent on the Hot 100 in two separate runs with "Good Morning Freedom" would be the only chart action they'd ever get. According to the song's lyrics -- written by Albert Hammond -- it's time to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and the responsibilities of a job. The bags are packed, and it's destination Malibu. The female singers sound especially influenced by gospel (which is underscored by a line saying "love thy neighbor").

Kool & the Gang - "Let The Music Take Your Mind" Let the Music Take Your Mind (Single Version) - Gold

(Debuted #95, Peaked #78, 6 Weeks on chart)

If you were to play a name-association game, the look and sound of Kool & the Gang would probably be tied to when you grew up. In my case, I didn't know about the group before "Celebration" -- unfortunate, I know -- so I would think of the 1980s hit machine the group became. However, for those who still remembered the band as a R&B/funk combo, "Let the Music Take Your Mind" will likely appeal to them.

In fact, you can hear the genesis of the groove that coursed through "Hollywood Swinging" and "Funky Stuff" in the song. The band members play the song as an extended jam, with several different members coming out to show what they can do before taking it to another level. In essence, they followed the title of the song as they played it.

Turley Richards - "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus" (Not Available on iTunes)

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

This was another song re-entering the chart after falling off. In fact, it was reviewed here a couple weeks back.

Turley Richards grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. Blinded in the left eye at the age of four in an archery accident, he rose above the disability to become a folksinger who played in the Greenwich Village scene during the 1960s after a failed try to make it in Los Angeles. In 1970, he released his debut LP and "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was the first single.

While there was no shortage of songs about religious themes in 1970, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was no newcomer. It was a traditional song/hymn written by Horatius Bonar in 1846, with music composed by John Dykes in 1868. Richards sang in a hymn-like manner, complete with an organ. That may account for part of the reason it didn't become a bigger hit; there was no "cool" element like a fuzz guitar line or gospel choir behind him.

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