Saturday, September 17, 2011

This Week's Review -- September 18, 1971

There were eight new singles making their debut in the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with five that made their way into the Top 40. One of those even went to #1. The first five are sung by females, including a self-contained all-female band, a singer who once fronted Smith and another who was best known for singing with her husband. A group whose name reflected their interest in the Occult perform a song from which many have picked up a religious message. A group that had already racked up several hits perform a live version of a song that had already been a big hit four years before. Finally, there were three singles done from a male perspective, and all three have different styles: one is a pop-like tune, another a rock song and one an R&B tune about what happens after the woman threatens to leave.

Among the archive of past issues of Billboard magazine at Google Books is the September 18, 1971 edition. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 66. A feature on Page 17 recounts the career of Dick James, a man whose publishing business included The Beatles and Elton John/Bernie Taupin as clients.

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Fanny - "Charity Ball" Charity Ball (Single Version) - First Time In A Long Time: The Reprise Recordings

(Debuted #81, Peaked #40, 10 Weeks on chart)

Fanny was an all-female group -- self-contained, rather than relying on others to play the music --  that was among the first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Led by sisters June and Jean Millington, they've been largely (and oddly) overlooked despite their historical significance. They weren't the first to record or get a major record label, but they predated The Runaways, who often get that credit.

"Charity Ball" was the lead track and title of the group's second LP, which was produced by Richard Perry. The song is a straight-ahead rocker that may have been quickly forgotten due to its short stay at the bottom of the Top 40. However, for two and a half minutes, it's a great piece of ear candy.

Coven - "One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack)" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #87, Peaked #26, 12 Weeks on chart)

"One Tin Soldier" is probably best known for its appearance in The Legend of Billy Jack, but it was originally an anti-war song written during the late 1960s and recorded by a Canadian group called The Original Caste, who had a minor hit with the song in 1970. Jinx Dawson sang it for the opening credits of the first Billy Jack film and the recording was credited to her band Coven.

During its run into the Top 40, there was some question about who held the rights to the song and it was pulled from airplay, which means it may have gotten higher than its #26 peak if fate hadn't intervened. The band rerecorded the song in 1973 (at the same time a second Billy Jack movie was being filmed) and returned to the Hot 100 with it.

Ironically, a band whose members were interested in witchcraft and Satanism (hence the name) made a song that has often been remembered for its religious imagery. However, the message of the song seems to serve as a warning that doing sin in the name of the Lord is still sin...and practitioners will still be judged for their actions. In any case, it's a relic of the early 1970s, a time where the nation was still reeling from Vietnam and a generational shift.

Cher - "Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves"  Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves - Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves

(Debuted #88, Peaked #1, 16 Weeks on chart)

Cher's first #1 hit without Sonny was a "cycle tale," where the story is repeating itself at the end. A baby is born in a traveling show, where Mama has to dance and Dad (later Grandpa) sells snake oil. The girl ends up getting pregnant during her teens after listening to a sweet-talking Southern boy, and the cycle begins again.

"Gypsys, Tramps & Theives" began life as a song called "Gypsies, Tramps and White Trash" but producer Snuff Garrett told writer Bob Stone that he'd have a better time pitching it if he changed the title. There is some confusion over the spelling of the title (the original was "Gypsys..." but later releases have changed it to the more correct "Gypsies..."), and the success of the song led to a reissue of Cher's self-titled LP with the song's name (again, as "Gypsys...") to capitalize.

At the same time, Cher and husband Sonny began their TV variety show a month earlier. It would provide an outlet for the duo (together and separately) to get additional hits due to its popularity. It revived both their careers.

The 5th Dimension - "Never My Love" Never My Love (Live) - The 5th Dimension/Live!!

(Debuted #89, Peaked #12, 10 Weeks on chart)

Recorded live and included on their LP The Fifth Dimension/Live!!, their rendition of "Never My Love" is a slowed-down, more adult version of a song that The Association took to #2 in 1967. The group missed the original's placement on the pop chart, but took it to #1 on the adult contemporary chart (their fourth chart-topper there).

While not as familiar as the version by The Association, its delivery by Marilyn McCoo can be seen as an expressive way to use her voice and give an inner power the original didn't have. Both songs were produced by Bones Howe, so there is little difference in the arrangement aside from its tempo.

Gayle McCormick - "It's A Cryin' Shame" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #44, 12 Weeks on chart)

Actually, "It's a Cryin' Shame" this song missed the Top 40.

Once again, Music Mike takes care of most of Gayle McCormick's background during his introduction in the video above. In short, McCormick was the female lead for the group Smith, whose breathy vocal on "Baby, It's You" in 1969 was a lot more nuanced than in The Shirelles' hit version or the remake done by The Beatles.

McCormick's biggest of her three solo hits was a lot more upbeat musically. The lyrics are about a broken relationship, with little more than resignation that it's over. Yes, she thinks back about the times they shared together but there's no dramatic element to be had. She's ready to tuck his faded picture in a book somewhere, wish him good luck and keep walking on. That's pretty healthy.

The 8th Day - "You've Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)" You Gotta Crawl Before You Walk - The Best of 8th Day

(Debuted #91, Peaked #28, 11 Weeks on chart)

From a song about cutting losses after a bad relationship, here's one about swallowing your pride and doing whatever is necessary to keep it together. In this case, though, the narrator knows he's been wrong.

The 8th Day was initially a studio creation by Holland/Dozier/Holland to prevent any loss of sales for 100 Proof (Aged in Soul)'s "Somebody's Been Sleeping." When that group's song "She's Not Just Another Woman" began attracting attention, the songwriting/producing trio simply issued the song on a record and credited it to "8th Day." For the followup single, they actually assembled a group to perform it.

"You've Got to Crawl Before You Walk" was the group's second Top 40 pop hit, and matched the earlier singles #3 peak on the R&B chart. Future releases by the group, however, were disappointing and they would split apart by 1973.

Springwell - "It's For You" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #97, Peaked #60, 10 Weeks on chart)

"It's For You" was the only Hot 100 listing for Springwell, a group from Detroit. It wasn't the first time for the song, though. Written by Lennon/McCartney, "It's For You" was a 1964 hit for Cilla Black, who took it to the Top 10 in the U.K. but peaked at #79 in the States. Three Dog Night also recorded a version of the song in 1969.

Springhill's rendition sounds like it came from a garage band, quite different from what Black had done with it. Though it surpassed the chart showing of her version in America, it didn't get enough of a chance to be memorable, even as it sounds like a 1971 relic in its sound and production style.

Nolan - "I Like What You Give"  I Like What You Give - Nolan

(Debuted #100, Peaked #98, 2 Weeks on chart )

This was the first of two different runs on the Hot 100 for "I Like What You Give." This time, it spent only two weeks on board and dropped after reaching #98. A month later, it would get another chance and went to #70.

At first listen, the song sounds like it came from a young Kenny Nolan. That's not correct, as it was Nolan Porter, who later hit under the name "N.F. Porter." A guitar-accented stroll, "I Like What You Give" is a breezy pop song that deserved its second chance. An instrumental bridge in the song starts off as if it's been influenced by the 1968 hit "Tighten Up" but then segues back into the main rhythm of the song. It features a nice drum part as well.

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