Saturday, August 6, 2011

This Week's Review -- August 8, 1970

There are eleven new singles appearing in the Billboard Hot 100 this week (one of which was two-sided). Five of them went on to make the Top 40, with two getting into the Top 10 and one reaching the #1 position. There is a common theme with some of the songs in this list. A couple of songs are remakes of earlier hits that have had a gospel chorus added to them, while another one is a B-side that has a religious "tone" even if it might be secular in nature. Another theme is the road, as three songs specifically mention traveling. A remembrance of a girl that got away appears in a song by a former Monkee, a hit appears for a band who later backed an ex-Beatle and a singer who appeaerd at Woodstock sings a song about getting along with others. Surprisingly, a band who had also appeared at Woodstock and was hugely influential in the 1960s are appearing on the Hot 100 for the very first time.

Along with a large archive of past editions of Billboard at Google Books, The August 8, 1970 edition is available to read for free. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 54. An article beginning on Page 8 explains how promoters of concert festivals were having trouble securing locations to hold them. Keeping in mind that this was still less than a year after the logistical nightmare of Woodstock and the resulting traffic issues around the site, as well as the tragedy of Altamont, it's little wonder that venues weren't exactly thrilled to deal with them.


Diana Ross - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Long Version) - Diana Ross (1970)

(Debuted #46, Peaked #1, 14 Weeks on chart)

Diana Ross' first #1 hit after leaving the Supremes was a song that had already been a hit before for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. While recording her debut LP, Ross was produced by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who had written the song. When they asked her to do the song, Ross was hesitant because she had already recorded the tune as a member of her previous group, in a "duet" with The Temptations.

As a result, the song was changed from its original upbeat tempo (which was the way it was done by The Supremes) and slowed it down. A string section and gospel-flavored background vocals were added, along with spoken-word recitations in two of the verses.

Despite Miss Ross' reluctance to record the song again, and Berry Gordy's reservations about the spoken passages, the song became one of Motown's best-remebered and cherished hits. It's just another example of how even the hitmakers don't always know when they've just laid down a million-selling record.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Lookin' Out My Back Door" Lookin' Out My Back Door - Cosmo's Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] b/w "Long As I Can See The Light" Long As I Can See the Light - Cosmo's Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered]

(Debuted #56, Peaked #2, 13 Weeks on chart)

Since this was a two-sided hit, here's a bonus video for the flip side:

From 1969 through '71, Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the top bands in the U.S. From "Proud Mary" to Sweet Hitch-Hiker," every one of their singles went into the pop Top 10. They had nine straight Top 10 singles, with the first seven reaching #4 or higher. Five of those singles reached #2...but none would hit the top spot. This time, they were held at bay by "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." It was assumed that the band was certainly going to reach the top position someday, but this would be the last time they would get this high up the charts.

Both songs appeared on the group's LP Cosmo's Factory. "Lookin' Out My Back Door" was marked by its general "down home" sound and its imaginative lyrics. While some critics assumed the words were inspired by an acid trip, John Fogerty insisted they were inspired by his young son. Whatever led it to be written, any song that mentions Buck Owens in its lyrics is okay with me.

There seems to be a religious undercurrent to "Long As I Can See the Light." While the lyrics describe going on a journey, the idea of a guiding light is common to songs that are spiritual in nature. The fact that Fogerty sings it in a mournful, respectful tone puctuates that possibility.

Aretha Franklin with the Dixie Flyers - "Don't Play That Song" Don't Play That Song - Aretha Franklin: 30 Greatest Hits

(Debuted #59, Peaked #11, 10 Weeks on chart)

I wasn't born in 1970, so my introduction to Aretha Franklin consisted of some of her 1960s hits on oldies radio, as well as her 1980s material as it appeared on the Top 40 radio in its own time. For whatever reason, her 1970s material was overlooked entirely. I don't remember exactly when it was, but one day, I finally got a chance to hear "Don't Play That Song" as it played as a part of a documentary about Aretha. 

The piano opening made me take immediate notice, but the gospel-inflected "You Lied" part with its call-and-response interaction with the backing chorus locked the song in the recesses of my memory forever.

Written by Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun, "Don't Play That Song" was a hit by Ben E. King in 1962. That version sounded similar to his "Stand By Me" with its Latin-influenced baion bass, and the chorus in the "You Lied" chorus uses a standard background vocal. With its added piano and inflected chorus, Aretha's version is quite memorable. Though it eventually matched King's #11 peak on the pop charts, it was a #1 hit on the R&B chart for five weeks (King reached #2 there).

Michael Nesmith and the First National Band - "Joanne" Joanne - Magnetic South

(Debuted #86, Peaked #21, 12 Weeks on chart)

Michael Nesmith's first hit single away from The Monkees was also the only Top 40 hit any member of the group would ever have on his own. I would say "solo," but that would take away some of the spotlight from his First National Band. Despite being a member of a noted pop/rock band, Nesmith showed off his Texas-bred country roots after embarking on his own career, which is certainly on display in "Joanne."

The song's lyrics were a remebrance of a girl the narrator once knew who eventually went away with another man. He had feelings for her (which were evidently unreturned) but isn't bitter that she got away. In fact, he even states in the song that his thoughts of her are "kind." If the song was written regarding an early crush or a first girlfriend, I can definitely relate.

Jackie DeShannon - "It's So Nice" It's So Nice - Classic Masters: Jackie DeShannon (Remastered)

(Debuted #87, Peaked #84, 2 Weeks on chart)

The lyrics of "It's So Nice" touch on a subject touring musicians know all too well: getting home after being away for a long period. After spending weeks or months away, the long stretches of highway in between the crowds can get monotonous, and returning to a familiar life is truly "so nice."

Interestingly, Jackie DeShannon moved to Los Angeles in 1970 and had to get used to a different place after coming off the road.

Despite falling off the Hot 100 after two weeks, "It's So Nice" would return for another five-week run in September. However, it didn't surpass it's original peak at #84.

Elephant's Memory - "Mongoose" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #50, 14 Weeks on chart)

Once again, Music Mike gives a little bit of background in the YouTube video above.

Although Elephant's Memory was best known for backing John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their 1972 tour and on the Some Time in New York City LP, they were a working band for a few years before Lennon picked up on them. "Mongoose" predated their association with the couple, having been recorded when Lennon was still a member of The Beatles.

Playing behind a former member of the biggest rock group was a great way for the New York-based band to be remembered, but it didn't do much to advance their career. "Mongoose" was their only charted single and they seem to have broken up sometime around 1974.

Bert Sommer - "We're All Playing In The Same Band" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #48, 8 Weeks on chart)

Not surprisingly for a song from 1970, "We're All Playing in the Same Band" is an appeal for brotherhood, using a musical metaphor to remind its listeners that people are all the same underneath the exteriors.

Bert Sommer was in original Broadway production of Hair and performed at Woodstock. That gig and the vibe it had may have helped Sommer decide to perform "We're All Playing in the Same Band." Sadly, he died of a respiratory illness in 1990.

Tony Joe White - "Save Your Sugar For Me" Save Your Sugar for Me - Tony Joe

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

Sadly, no YouTube video for this song seems to be available at the time of this writing. Louisiana-born Tony Joe White is best known for his 1969 hit "Polk Salad Annie" and also wrote songs that became hits for other artists, such as "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Steamy Windows."

"Save Your Sugar for Me" would be his only charted single of the 1970s, which is puzzling since the decade was so good to singer/songwriters. Perhaps White was a decade before his time, as the popularity of "outlaw" country acts like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings may have helped him considerably.

Marmalade - "Rainbow" Rainbow - Marmalade - Their Very Best - EP

(Debuted #96, Peaked #51, 8 Weeks on chart)

Marmalade's follow-up to the #10 hit "Reflections of My Life" may come as a pleasant surprise to those who've never heard it. Where the earlier hit featured an orchestral backing and dramatic undertones, this song has neither. This time, it's the band and their own instruments. Beginning with a mournful harmonica that pops up again in the middle and again at the end, there is an effortless feel of the way the words come that makes it easy to join in and sing along.

While not a big hit here in the U.S., "Rainbow" made it to #3 in the band's native U.K. However, Marmalade never managed to replicate their U.K. success in the U.S. and would split up soon afterward. They did manage to get one more minor hit in the U.S. with "Fallin' Apart at the Seams" in 1976, with an entirely different lineup that was pieced together when the band was reformed.

The Grateful Dead - "Uncle John's Band" Uncle John's Band - Workingman's Dead (Bonus Tracks)

(Debuted #97, Peaked #69, 7 Weeks on chart)

This may seem to be a typo for those who don't pay attention to chart minutiae...but "Uncle John's Band" was the very first single from The Grateful Dead that ever reached the Hot 100. That's right, all the influence that the band had through the late 1960s couldn't get them a hit single. However, it can be pointed out that many of their tunes really weren't suited for singles-based hit radio as they were as album-length sides or as live concert jams.

"Uncle John's Band" shows some of the Dead's influences in its style: bluegrass, folk and an acoustic setting. Originally an offering on the LP Workingman's Dead that ran for nearly five minutes, it was cut down to fit more nicely into radio playlists as well as to remove the word "Goddamn" that pops up in its lyrics. Ironically, Top 40 stations largely ignored it, and many of the more progressive FM stations just played it from the album.

The Poppy Family Featuring Susan Jacks - "That's Where I Went Wrong" That's Where I Went Wrong (US Version) - A Good Thing Lost 1968-1973

(Debuted #100, Peaked #29, 12 Weeks on chart)

The Poppy Family was built around the husband/wife duo of Terry and Susan Jacks. Terry largely wrote and produced that material, while Susan expressed the words with her voice. "That's Where I Went Wrong" was the followup to the #2 hit "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" and seems to be about a relationship that is about to fall apart.

The lyrics mention how the ring no longer means anything and how the bus ride is becoming eternal. That may seem interesting, as the Jackses -- is that right? -- would still be together for a couple more years. Besides, the tour bus (if I am getting the bus reference right) would continue to roll long after the song was written.

It would be the group's final Top 40 hit in the U.S. Several other singles would chart in the lower reaches of the Hot 100, and another would make the adult contemporary chart. However, the band and marriage would finally fall apart in 1973.


  1. 1."Ain't no Mountain"--In addition to the classic treatment given this song, the song was 6:19 so long thsat it was given the usual editing on single, taking a LOT of vocal (only a few instumental parts deleted.)

    2."That's where I went Wrong"-BOTH that AND "Which Way" seemed more adult than the "bubblegum" label that the, uh, "Poppies" (:D) got labeled into.

    And that's straight from the clay pony's mouth (himself a star with Gumby on TV in that same era, though waning..Pokey.:)

  2. "We're All Playing in the Same Band" did have enough impact for Carol Burnett to include it as a production number on her show first aired Nov. 8, 1972. The confirmation info can be found at

    Also, Bert Sommer later played a member of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs on "The Krofft Supershow" in 1977.

    Great blog, by the way!