Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Week's Review -- September 8, 1973

Ten new records debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with seven of those making their way into the Top 40. Two of those were Top 10 hits, with one going all the way to #1. The chart-topper was a rare ballad from the band that is often called "The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World" by its fans. The other Top 10 was a family act whose singer was compared to Donny Osmond. Coincidentally, Donny's family act is here as well, along with a comedy act that parodied "Love Jones" and a hit from the film "Cleopatra Jones." Kool & the Gang get their first of many Top 40 hits with a tune that promises what its title offers. As for the songs that fell short of the Top 40 were a retro-styled song, a remake of a French-language 1970 hit and a nostalgic look at the things of childhood.

Among the large archive of past issues of Billboard over at Google Books is the September 8, 1973 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on Page 58. An article on Page 32 explains how jukebox programmers were having some difficulties getting into new venues that weren't known for having them. There was outright restance from fast food places (evidently, McDonald's wasn't quite so youth-friendly then), and a swimming pool found that water and sunlight were harmful to the metal exterior and the records inside.

Where Rock Art lives

The Rolling Stones - "Angie" Angie - Goats Head Soup (Remastered)

(Debuted #75, Peaked #1, 16 Weeks on chart)

There are a lot of accounts about "Angie." Some say it was about David Bowie's then-wife, others say it could have been about Bowie himself. Keith Richards says he used his newborn daughter's middle name and that the song was written about breaking a heroin habit. In any case, it's one of the few ballads the Stones put out as a single, as well as a rare acoustic-based tune.

The lyrics explain that a relationship is drawing to its inevitable end, and it's not a pleasant ending. However, the acoustic accompaniment and Nicky Hopkin's piano work (not to mention the strings, another thing that seems out of place on a Stones song) mix with Mick Jagger's vocal to express the emotional toll of the decision.

It's a deeper song than earlier tunes like "Under My Thumb" or "Get Off of My Cloud" suggested.

Millie Jackson - "Hurts So Good" It Hurts So Good - Millie Jackson: 21 of the Best (1971-1983)

(Debuted #78, Peaked #24, 12 Weeks on chart)

Millie Jackson specialized in songs about cheating, told from the viewpoint of the "other" woman. However, her biggest pop hit was a track from the soundtrack to Cleopatra Jones that seemed to be more about masochism than it was about satisfying another woman's husband.

The lyrics tell the story of a very unhealthy relationship. The guy is playing with her mind, talking bad about her to his friends and tears down her self-esteem. Yet, she doesn't want to walk away. In fact, she's telling him to keep it up. All the while, she's joined by a gospel-inspired backing unit, lush strings and horns that punctuate the feelings she's having.

The DeFranco Family Featuring Tony DeFranco -  "Heartbeat - It's a Lovebeat" Heartbeat It's a Love Beat - Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat (feat. Tony DeFranco)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #3, 17 Weeks on chart)

The DeFranco Family was a Canadian act consisting of five siblings -- three brothers and two sisters -- with the youngest member on lead vocals. Tony DeFranco was 13 at the time he recorded "Heartbeat - It's a Lovebeat" and was compared to Donny Osmond, who at 15 was outgrowing the fan base we now call "tweens."

"Heartbeat" was the group's first single and a surprise hit, a bubblegum confection in an era when that sound was supposed to have been dying. As we have found out from New Kids on the Block, Hannah Montana and others throughout the years, there's no denying the effect of prepubescent girls on pop music.

Cheech & Chong - "Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces" Basketball Jones - Los Cochinos

(Debuted #84, Peaked #15, 11 Weeks on chart (Debut))

"Basketball Jones" isn't the name of a character (he's Tyrone Shoelaces). It's a subtle parody of the hit "Love Jones" from earlier in 1973 and about a guy who's obsessed with hoops.

Cheech & Chong's LP Los Cochinos featured a spoken segment leading in to "Basketball Jones" called "White World of Sports" that introduces the character. A coach (who is also heard during "Basketball Jones") brings him in and he breaks out in song. Using a falsetto, Tyrone (voiced by Cheech Marin) brags about his abilities and asks everybody (except for Chris Schenkel) to join him in the chorus.

"Basketball Jones" was a star-studded affair in the studio. George Harrison plays guitar, Carole King plays the electric piano, Tom Scott adds his saxophone and Billy Preston mans the organ. The "cheerleaders" include Darlene Love and Michelle Phillips. It must have been a blast to lay down on tape.

The Osmonds - "Let Me In" Let Me In - Osmondmania! Osmond Family Greatest Hits

(Debuted #86, Peaked #36, 10 Weeks on chart)

After several years of constant touring, recording and appearances, The Osmonds began looking at other issues in life. By 1973, some of the brothers had gotten married or were of the age where Mormons are asked to go on missions for the church. Of course, they were well-known as members of their faith so their touring was seen as a type of "mission" on its own, but the idea sprouted that led to the "concept" LP The Plan.

"Let Me In" was sung by Merrill Osmond and featured the other four brothers harmonizing on the chorus. It's one of those songs that across as a devotional song, one that is addressed either to a prospective mate or a deity. Though I'd likely assume it's the former, the name and concept of the LP that contains it might suggest the latter.

Ike & Tina Turner - "Nutbush City Limits" Nutbush City Limits - Proud Mary - The Best of Ike & Tina Turner

(Debuted #89, Peaked #22, 15 Weeks on chart)

From a song about looking ahead, we go into a few that look back.

After more than a decade together, the tempestuous relationship between Ike and Tina Turner was winding its way down. As a result, "Nutbush City Limits" would be the final Top 40 hit for the duo. Though few (even Ike and Tina) would know what was about to happen over the next couple of years, it was quite a finale.

The song was semi-autobiographical for Tina (who wrote it), as she was born in Nutbush, Tennessee. The lyrics paint a picture of small-town life, not as a wistful memory or a reminder of how bad it was; rather, the words are presented in a matter-of-fact way, as if she was just telling it the way she remembered it. However, there is an undercurrent of funk that propels the song forward and makes it impossible to miss.

Ironically, Nutbush is an unincorporated area, so it doesn't technically have "city limits."

Kenny Karen - "That's Why You Remember" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #82, 4 Weeks on chart)

There isn't a lot of information out there from the usual sources about Kenny Karen. From what I can tell, he's a Montreal native who made his name writing and singing jingles for radio and television ads. He also spent several years recording demos for songwriters to pitch to established stars.

"That's Why You Remember" was his only hit on the pop chart in the 1970s. A list of items from childhood memories as a reminder that there will always still be part of a kid inside each of us, it touched on the nostalgic feeling that was cresting at the time. However, it was also likely seen as maudlin with its slow melody. At just over two minutes, it seems to drag on longer.

The J. Geils Band - "Make Up Your Mind" Make Up Your Mind - Bloodshot

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

Speaking of the nostalgic feeling that rose in the 1970s, here is a tune that evoked the 1950s rock & roll style and didn't need to bring up a list of items to jog anybody's memory. Though it sounds like it's a remake of a song from the past, "Make Up Your Mind" was written by band members Peter Wolf and Seth Justman. It's purely retro, with its R&B-influenced beat.

The YouTube video above is a live version of "Make Up Your Mind," captured by George Corneliussen,  the man who ran the mixer board during the late 1970s. It features a harmonica solo by Magic Dick that wasn't on the original single but still should be heard.

Sylvia and Ralfi Pagan - "Soul Je T'aime" (Not Available on iTunes)

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

Several months removed from the success of the hit "Pillow Talk," Sylvia went back a few years and did a new version of another breathy tune, the 1970 Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin hit "Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)." I'm not really sure if this is an English translation (as I don't understand French), but I do recognize the climactic "Oh, my God" near the end that Sylvia "borrowed" from "Pillow Talk."

Ralfi Pagan was a Latin singer from The Bronx who sang in both English and Spanish. He had a large fan base in Latin America, he was tragically murdered in Columbia in 1978. "Soul Je T'aime" represents his only entry on the pop charts, but his work continues to sell well and is perhaps better-known today than it was during his too-brief lifetime.

Kool and the Gang - "Funky Stuff" Funky Stuff - Wild and Peaceful

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

Don't believe the saying...sometimes, you can judge a single by its label. When Kool & the Gang promise to deliver "Funky Stuff" on their record, they certainly deliver.

Taken from their LP Wild and Peaceful, "Funky Stuff" was the band's first Top 40 pop single as well as their first Top 5 R&B hit. It was also the first of three hits from that album ("Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" were the others) that established the band's tone and style until James "J.T" Taylor's arrival in 1979. It was a three-minute funk workout, yet solidly rooted in pop. Their horn section was bright, the saxophone swinging, and the vocals boisterous.

1 comment:

  1. Re:The DeFranco Family: New Kids on the Block and Hannah Montana were a sad sign of how far bubblegum or anything else musical came since the 1970s and earlier: New Kids's leader got busted due to arson in the spring of 1991 [making the susbsequent arrest of Pee Wee Herman for smacking the monkey while New Kids got off scott free really sad---and don't get me started on the decline of another former bubblegummer, Michael Jackson], and the ban d sounded more serious anmd closer to hip hop eventually, (noted many times in that decade!) though in fairness to New Kids on the Block, the light-big band style that was used in those much oldrer sunshine pop-bubble songs had in terms of time had passed, and the higher ups put the bubblegum tag on them. Only the demographcis were the same. Yes, the group did get its act togewther, but still I wish they hadn't done that arson in Louisville, Kentucky. In fairness, Hannah Montana, too, posed nude, and wanted to be more "grown up", though she didn't have any public incidents there..

    The DeFranco Family were, of course, like myself, still in an era where the George Burnses and even Jack Benny were still dominant, as in why James Darren and Frankie Avalon didn't sound like rock the way today's teen idols -most, anyway-,so often seem to..

    Re:Kool and the Gang-Jungle Boogie, Hollywood Swinging..those are the ones I sitll know and love, the one you posted doesn't ring a bell, but then again I haven't played the YouTube video.. Kool and the Gang later became bigger 1979-80 with more hits such as... Ce-le-brate Good times come on..a decade after a big Three Dog Night hit of the same name and theme!!!!