Saturday, January 14, 2012

This Week's Review -- January 12, 1974

This week had some potent hits. Seven new singles debuted in this week's Billboard Hot 100, and six of them went on to become Top 40 hits. Additionally, three would enter the Top 10 and the lowest-charting debut went on to reach #1. That chart-topper is among the handful of songs that are among those tossed out by fans as a great example of 1970s music, as well as those who find it among the worst things ever etched into vinyl. The other Top 10 singles include a song that has aged well over the years as well as a rare song sung entirely in a foreign language. A gritty performance by The Stones, a celebration of the American spirit as viewed by an outsider and an R&B hit by The Moments are included, as well as a group effort credited to Joe Walsh.

There is a large archive of Billboard issues over at Google Books, but the issue from January 12, 1974 is not among them. Instead, I'd like to point out the tabs hanging off the picture of the 8-track tapes above. Each one has its own year listed, and clicking on them will bring up all the weeks (and songs) I have featured on this blog so far in that year. I update the list with each new post, so if there's a favorite year you want to look through or even a song you'd like to find from a particular time, check them out.

iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store

The Rolling Stones - "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) - Goats Head Soup (Remastered)

(Debuted #83, Peaked #15, 11 Weeks on chart)

A lot of roles are switched around on this song. Keith Richards plays the bass, while Mick Taylor takes over on lead guitar. Two of the more prominent instruments don't feature members of the Stones at all but prominent sidemen: Billy Preston does the opening clavinet and Bill Price blows on the trumpet.

The situations mentioned in the lyrics (police shoot a man in a case of mistaken identity, a young girl overdoses on drugs) weren't actual events. Instead, Mick Jagger's words are meant to paint an image of life in inner-city America (as Stevie Wonder's "Living For the City" did around the same time). As he unleashes one of his more memorable performances, other group members add in their own "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo" refrains, which are present enough to have been included in the song's title.

While not one of the band's most-requested tunes or even one that gets a lot of play on the radio, it's definitely one of their high points during the 1970s.

Redbone - "Come And Get Your Love" Come and Get Your Love - Come and Get Your Love

(Debuted #85, Peaked #5, 23 Weeks on chart)

The term "redbone" comes from a Louisiana Cajun term for a person of mixed racial ancestry, and the group Redbone was fronted by a pair of brothers named Pat and Lolly Vegas, who were of mixed heritage themselves. They were Mexican (their real last name was Vasquez) and Native American, which would be a large influence on their music.

The group's biggest hit was "Come and Get Your Love," a song that has stayed in the collective American conscience over the years thanks to its use in commercials in addition to its inclusion in many retro radio formats. Despite the fact that Lolly Vegas sounds like he's singing despite the fact he's fighting a cold, the song has actually aged quite well in comparison to much of the contemporary material it competed with on its way up the chart. The band's singalong in the chorus, the subtle string arrangement, the use of a guitar that sounds vaguely like a sitar and the funky-but-not-really bass all combine to give the song a timeless feel that works even in later eras.

Mocedades - "Eres Tu (Touch the Wind)" Eres Tú - Eres Tu

(Debuted #90, Peaked #9, 17 Weeks on chart)

In Europe, the annual Eurovision concert is a big deal, as several nations bring out their best and brightest stars to vie for the title. Over the years, the contest has expanded to include other nations that aren't exactly European. "Eres Tu" was the runner-up in the 1973 contest; however, few would be ready to name the song that beat it out without looking it up (I definitely can't).

Hailing from Bilbao, Spain, Mocedades was originally known as Voces y Guitarras ("voices and guitars" in their native language). They were founded in the mid-1960s and went through some lineup changes before producer Juan Carlos Calderon changed their name around 1970. The success of the group (and the song) at Eurovision spurred a single release of the song, with its original lyrics on one side and an English translation -- called "Touch the Wind" -- on the other.

The Spanish-language version was a surprise hit in the U.S. and became one of the few songs sung entirely in Spanish to make the Top 10. There were others that were sung partially in the language (Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"), there were others that were technicalities (I'm not counting The Champs' "Tequila," but it can be argued that its one word in the lyrics is Spanish), but for a nation with an ever-growing Hispanic population, there haven't been a whole lot.

Joe Walsh - "Meadows" Meadows - The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get.

(Debuted #97, Peaked #89, 4 Weeks on chart)

The only one of the songs on this week's list that failed to make the Top 40 might not come as a surprise once you hear it. It's just not a song that was meant to be commercial. From the screaming that started off the song to the swing between light vocals and more bombastic instrumentals, it might have felt more at home on college radio during the 1990s.

"Meadows" was the first track on side two on the LP The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get. Though the album was credited solely to Joe Walsh it was meant to be a project for his band Barnstorm. His record company opted to make it a solo release to capitalize on Walsh's fame. The song featured Walsh on vocals and guitars, but the rest of the band is just as prominent throughout the song.

Gordon Sinclair - "The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion)" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #98, Peaked #24, 7 Weeks on chart)

Gordon Sinclair's only "hit" was a spoken-word recording that started out as an editorial made after the news that the U.S. Red Cross had run into financial trouble. Sinclair was a journalist and read it in his position on the air at radio station CFRB in Toronto. After going on record to stand up in support of his neighbors to the south, U.S. News and World Report ran an article with the commentary.

Some other stations recorded the bit along with a patriotic background "bed" (as instrumental backgrounds are called in the business), including one by fellow Canadian broadcaster Byron MacGregor, whose single was released ahead of the "official" version by Sinclair. They would fight their way up the Top 40 -- with MacGregor winning the dogfight -- and a third version by Tex Ritter eventually charted as well. With the single, Sinclair became the second-oldest person to have a Top 40 hit at 73 years old.

"The Americans" was resurrected in 2001, after the events of September 11. They were often erroneously attributed as a response to the airplane attacks, even though Sinclair had been dead for 17 years and the "draft dodgers" alluded to in the piece had long since returned home.

The Moments - "Sexy Mama" Sexy Mama - Love On a Two-Way Street - The Best of the Moments

(Debuted #99, Peaked #17, 13 Weeks on chart)

The Moments were a trio of Billy Brown, Harry Ray and Al Goodman that formed in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1960s. Ray had joined the group after the 1970 hit "Love On a Two-Way Street," and sang lead on "Sexy Mama." He had taken the lead vocal duties from Goodman, who was experiencing issues with his throat at the time, and his sensual reading of the lyrics over the lush orchestration really fit the song well.

"Sexy Mama" would be the group's biggest hit under that name other than "Love On a Two-Way Street." In 1979, contractual problems forced them to change their name to Ray, Goodman and Brown for future recordings.

Terry Jacks - "Seasons In The Sun" (Original Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #100, Peaked #1, 21 Weeks on chart)

"Seasons in the Sun" is one of the many songs of the 1970s that are polarizing to fans. There are a lot of people who love it, but there are also a lot of people who would prefer extensive root canal surgery without any anaesthetic rather than listen to it again.

While known primarily as a Terry Jacks song, "Seasons in the Sun" predates him by more than a decade. It was originally written with French lyrics by Jacques Brel in 1961, while Rod McKuen penned a much different English translation. Jacks had originally worked with the song as part of a Beach Boys project, but it was never released.

What probably bothers many people about the song is that it's told from the perspective of a man who's about to die. Jacks' version doesn't necessarily state whether the person is suffering from a terminal disease or is about to be executed (or, as critics contend, simply from realizing that he's singing that song). Songs where somebody's getting ready to meet his doom aren't usually well-suited for pop music. The tenor of the song is appropriately downbeat, but maybe the cheerfulness of the chorus and its optimistic look at past events doesn't sit well with some.

No comments:

Post a Comment