Saturday, November 5, 2011

This Week's Review -- November 2, 1974

Nine singles took their first bow in Billboard this week, with five reaching the Top 40. Two of those would find their way into the Top 10 as well. Those two Top 10 hits would also also appear on the earliest Disco charts Billboard would feature as that style became more pervasive. The other Top 40 songs would feature a soul song about a cheating man, a progressive FM hit and a remake of a 1950s hit. Finally, there are some gems in the songs that missed the Top 40, with a reissue of a song that had stiffed in 1971, a R&B song that should have been a bigger hit and a song that was typical of Ike & Tina Turner. The last song was a "break-in" single that tried to celebrate the icon that was Evel Knievel.

There are a number of past issues of Billboard magazine over at Google Books, including the November 2, 1974 edition. The full Hot 100 can be found on page 58.An article on page 20 discusses the DJ known as Dr. Demento (whose real name is Barry Hansen) and features his then-current Top 10 list. One of the songs listed was "Shaving Cream," a song that would chart in the Top 40 the following year. Another article on page 66 explains that some things have been with us for a while; it says how a large number of records on that week's album chart are either compilations of live sets.

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Barry White - "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" You're the First, the Last, My Everything - Can't Get Enough

(Debuted #60, Peaked #2, 15 Weeks on chart)

"You're the First, the Last, My Everything" has become one of the most recognizable songs Barry White ever did as a solo artist. It would go to #2 on the pop chart, was his third #1 on the R&B chart and was a #2 disco hit. It started out as a country song, of all things. Peter Radcliffe had written it during the 1950s as "You're the First, the Last, My In-Between" but was never able to get it recorded. White rewrote the lyrics and cut it as a dance tune.

During the 1990s, "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" was frequently used in the show Ally McBeal, as the motivation for John Cage (Peter MacNichol's character) whenever he needed to draw on his inner strength.

Shirley Brown - "Woman To Woman" Woman to Woman - Woman to Woman

(Debuted #68, Peaked #22, 14 Weeks on chart)

"Woman To Woman" begins with a spoken-word intro setting up the song. See, Shirley has gone through her man's wallet and found the number for a woman named Barbara. Calling Barbara up on the phone, Shirley stakes her claim and says in no uncertain terms that the man is hers and she's ready to do what she needs to in order to keep him. He's a lucky man; if that were me, my wife would have made sure nobody found my body.

"Barbara" is a reference to Barbara Mason, whose songs had frequently covered the topic of adultery. Mason followed up with a "response" record called "From His Woman to You" soon afterward. Not letting go of the fact that an adultery song would be great for the country audience, another Barbara -- Mandrell -- remade it in 1978.

Eric Clapton - "Willie And The Hand Jive" Willie and the Hand Jive - 461 Ocean Blvd. (Deluxe Edition)

(Debuted #78, Peaked #26, 9 Weeks on chart)

"Hand jiving" is a name for a type of dance that involved hitting and clapping against various body parts in a simulation of percussion. It probably had its heyday in the 1950s. "Willie and the Hand Jive" was a song originally written and recorded by Johnny Otis in 1958. When Eric Clapton remade it a generation later, he stayed fairly true to the original, probably out of respect. Fans of Grease probably recognize the term from a song featured in the stage show as well as the movie.

Clapton's version was one of the tunes that came off his LP 461 Ocean Boulevard, which was a collection that showcased his various interests and influences. The bluesy feel of the song fit in nicely with the latter.

The Doobie Brothers - "Nobody" Nobody - The Doobie Brothers

(Debuted #80, Peaked #58, 6 Weeks on chart)

The recording in the YouTube video above is a newly recorded version -- but still true to its original form -- from 2010, but "Nobody" was still an "old" song by the standards of 1974. It had originally been the first track of their first LP and their debut single in 1971, but failed to chart. It was brought back to life by the band's later success. Despite being an early track for the group, it captures the sound that they would become known for quite nicely.

"Nobody" is one of Tom Johnston's contributions, recorded at a time when there were only four members in the band: Johnston, Patrick Simmons, drummer John Hartman (when there was only one drummer in the band) and original bassist Dave Shogren, who left the group as they laid down their second album.

Jethro Tull - "Bungle In The Jungle" Bungle In the Jungle - Warchild (Remastered)

(Debuted #82, Peaked #12, 16 Weeks on chart)

After two concept albums that were essentially long-form stories that contained one song that spanned the two sides of the record, Jethro Tull returned to a more standard convention for their War Child LP. The album was originally intended as a more grandiose statement (a double-LP set that was also a movie soundtrack), but eventually saw light as a ten-song, single LP. Of those songs, "Bungle in the Jungle" was the one that generated the most attention.

When frontman Ian Anderson began writing "Bungle in the Jungle," he was working on an album project after Thick as a Brick that he eventually scrapped in favor of A Passion Play. He wrote it during a period where he was interested in psychology and the human condition, and used the animal kingdom as a metaphor. The lyrics use animals to describe the actions of people ("I'm a tiger when I want love, I'm a snake when we disagree") and equate the concept of a Supreme Being ("He who made kittens put snakes in the grass") as a chess master who is playing a game.

Grand Canyon - "Evil Boll-Weevil" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #72, 5 Weeks on chart)

Evel Knievel was an icon in the 1970s. Kids on bicycles pretended to be him in the same way kids of the 1950s stood up with a stick and pretended to be Mickey Mantle. He had his own action figure, complete with a stunt cycle that could be wound up.

"Evil Boll Weevil" is a "break-in" record parodying Evel Knievel and his jump over the Snake River canyon on September 8, 1974. Featuring a jock doing an impression of Ed Sullivan (as "Ed Peachtree"), the song features a mix of bits from current songs and sound effects that shouldn't have been mistaken for a project from Dickie Goodman, who popularized the style.

Gloria Gaynor - "Never Can Say Goodbye" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #9, 17 Weeks on chart)

Gloria Gaynor's debut chart single was "Never Can Say Goodbye," which was a high-energy version of a song The Jackson Five had taken into the Top 10 in 1971. However, Gaynor took the song and made it her own with her rendition. It was part of her first LP (which was also named Never Can Say Goodbye), which was among the first aimed at disco clubs in that it eliminated breaks between the songs. It might have been considered Gaynor's signature hit, but she would come back strong with an even bigger single in the late days of the Disco era.

Its place in history is secure, though: when Billboard included its first Disco chart in its magazine in 1975, the #1 song on that list was Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye."

Ike & Tina Turner - "Sexy Ida (Part 1)" Sexy Ida (Part 1) - Proud Mary - The Best of Ike & Tina Turner

(Debuted #90, Peaked #65, 7 Weeks on chart)

"Sexy Ida" was recorded during what eventually became the end of Ike and Tina Turner's personal and professional partnership. Due to Tina's book and the movie, that era is famous for its excess and abuse, but that wasn't known to fans in 1974, nor did it seem apparent in the Soul Train performance shown in the video above.

"Sexy Ida" boasted a funky rhythm and a typically sassy performance by Tina warning to stay away from another woman, but it failed to reach the Top 40. It was also a low-carting song on the R&B survey, reaching #29.

The Dynamic Superiors - "Shoe Shoe Shine" Shoe Shoe Shine - Heart of Soul Classics 2

(Debuted #92, Peaked #68, 7 Weeks on chart)

The Dynamic Superiors were a soul band based in Washington, D.C. The had formed in 1963 but never reached a level that contemporary groups from Detroit and Philadelphia achieved at the time. Their lead singer was named Tony Washington, who was very flamboyant and occasionally dressed in drag onstage. Perhaps the fact that he was open about his lifestyle was one reason they never reached a bigger stage, but it points to the fact that the group may have been ahead of its time.

Their only pop hit was "Shoe Shoe Shine," which has much of the feeling of hit songs from groups like The Stylistics and the Spinners even as it failed to catch on. It's a shame, since the song -- written by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson -- is a beautifully-done slice of 1970s pre-disco soul, complete with a magnificent brass section. As a song whose lyrics express the way mony didn't go as far as it once did, it's appropriate that the song is now considered a classic "old school" performance. Unfortunately, further success eluded the group, so they split up around 1977.

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