Saturday, August 4, 2012

This Week's Review -- August 1, 1970

There were 12 Singles debuting in this week's Billboard Hot 100. Of these, five reached into the Top 40 and two went Top 10. The singles included the first solo hit by Tommy James, as well as the last by Mama Cass. Bobby Sherman's biggest hit is here, as is the next salvo by Blood, Sweat and Tears after their breakthrough. The "King" ships a surprising two-sider into the mix, Lou Rawls gives his spin to the same song he backed up in 1962, and Dave Mason gets by with a little help from his friends. An elementary school class records a song written by a teacher, and a group called Caboose shows up for the only hit it ever charted. Finally, Joe Simon and The Chairmen of the Board return to the charts with their own distinct "brand."

Over at Google Books is a large archive of Billboard issues, including the August 1, 1970 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 60. On page 18, an executive predicts that pre-recorded material could be profitable; he said that about Cartridge TV, but he was proven right a decade and a half later. However, progress doesn't please everybody. On page 1, jukebox operators complain that the expansion of the running time on singles is eating into their profit margin.

Unlimited Music, Everywhere. Try Rdio for Free.

Rare Earth - "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (I Know) I'm Losing You - The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 10: 1970

(Debuted #61, Peaked #7, 12 Weeks on chart)

On the LP Ecology, Rare Earth outperformed The Temptations on "(I Know) I'm Losing You." The 1966 original was given a more psychedelic sound and extended into a ten-minute jam. When it was released as a single, it was edited back down to a radio-friendly three minutes and charted at #7, which beat The Temptations by one point.

Ironically, at the time Rare Earth was remaking "(I Know) I'm Losing You" in a more psychedelic style, The Temptations were recording in the style as well and just might have done it differently if they'd recorded it in 1970.

Bobby Sherman - "Julie, Do Ya Love Me" Julie, Do Ya Love Me - With Love, Bobby

(Debuted #71, Peaked #5, 15 Weeks on chart)

Bobby Sherman's biggest hit of 1970s came after the cancellation of the TV show that propelled him to stardom, Here Come the Brides. While that was soon followed by the fading of the sheen on Sherman's pop star, it's worth mentioning that his acting gig led to a future job that helped far more people than his TV ratings or million-selling albums did.

In 1974, Sherman appeared on the show Emergency!, where he became interested in the methods that EMTs used. Soon, he retreated from public life and became one. Founding a volunteer EMT service, Sherman gave classes in first aid and CPR, eventually becoming a technical reserve officer in the Los Angeles police department, rising to the rank of captain. Say what you want about Bobby Sherman as an entertainer or a teen idol, but that's an amazing thing.

By the way...the screaming from girls in the video clip above was a standard feature of Sherman concerts. It's also something that contributed to the hearing loss he suffers to this day.  

Blood, Sweat, and Tears - "Hi-De-Ho" Hi-De-Ho - Blood, Sweat and Tears 3

(Debuted #72, Peaked #14, 8 Weeks on chart)

After the breakout success of their 1969 LP, Blood, Sweat and Tears had a monumental task with their next record. It was sure to sell well simply based on the afterburners from their previous set, but the group was saddled with an unrealistic expectation to move forward while making sure to bottle the spark they showed earlier. They did well, but took care not to veer too far from the course they set.

The first track on Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 was "Hi-De-Ho," a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It started off with the horns that made them famous before David Clayton-Thomas opens up with his vocal. There's a harmonica solo in the instrumental bridge and some solid keyboard playing to go with the horns, but critics blasted the group's reliance on outside material (even though that didn't seem to be such a problem before) at the expense of creating their own.

In short, it was too much of the same thing. Besides, Chicago showed up around the same time with their own formula (largely self-written, though) and relegated BST to the cutout racks fairly quickly.

Elvis Presley - "I've Lost You" I've Lost You - Walk a Mile In My Shoes: The Essential '70s Masters b/w "The Next Step Is Love" The Next Step Is Love - Walk a Mile In My Shoes: The Essential '70s Masters

(Debuted #85, Peaked #32, 9 Weeks on chart)

Here's a video of the equally impressive B-side:

One of several two-sided Elvis chart singles of the 1970s, these two songs appeared on the soundtrack for the film That's the Way it Is. The recording of "I've Lost You" on the album (shown in the video above) is a live cut, but the hit was a studio cut. The B-Side, "The Next Step is Love," was the same studio recording on both formats.

"I've Lost You" is often attributed to the then-disintegrating marriage between Elvis and Priscilla Presley, which often makes people forget that he didn't write the song. Alan Blaikley and Ken Howard were the authors, and a version by Matthews' Southern Comfort appeared in 1969. The fact that Presley was so able to parallel the song with his personal life (the same way he did with "Suspicious Minds" and "Always On My Mind") just shows how well he was at interpreting the material of others.

"The Next Step is Love" was a lot more positive, as if Presley was hoping to convince himself that his marital problems would just go away with a little work. The song is a well-crafted piece of 1970s pop, something that he recorded solidly when he really tried. Together, the two sides of the single tell a story. On one side, an admission that life isn't always easy; on the other, a promise that it can get better.

Miss Abrams & the Strawberry Point School 3rd Grade Class - "Mill Valley" Mill Valley - Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class (Digital Only)

(Debuted #92, Peaked #90, 3 Weeks on chart)

I could explain the story behind the song, but instead I'll point you to JB's The Hits Just Keep On Coming blog, because he discussed it a couple of years back. He did a great job at it, meaning that I couldn't possibly add anything new to what he said.

The short story for those who don't want to check out the link above...this is an actual elementary school class in Mill Valley, California, and they're being led by a teacher who also wrote the song. Rita Abrams was actually a kindergarten teacher when she wrote this serenade to the students' home town, but it was decided that a third grade class would be a better choice for the recording.

It didn't get high up the charts (and is a relic of the idealism of the era), but how awesome would it be to have that record and know that your voice is one of the ones on it? Although the children are about 50 years old now, there are likely some who have their own copy stashed away, a remnant of their short music career. I'm not being facetious by saying that...I think it would be great.

As for Rita Abrams, she left the teaching profession soon after the record to make more music. Though she never had any more national hits, she remained active in the business and is still living in Mill Valley, according to her Wikipedia page.

The Caboose - "Black Hands White Cotton" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #94, Peaked #79, 3 Weeks on chart)

The Caboose was a Memphis group, who were originally called The Butterscotch Caboose before shortening their name. Founded by brother and sister Walter and Patrice Ramsey, who stayed with the group as its membership changed. Eventually, Gary Johns was installed as the lead singer (originally, Patrice Ramsey held that spot) and their recording of "Black Hands White Cotton" got them signed with a Stax subsidiary. Unfortunately, the business aspect took over: the label fumbled the promotion before the band could capitalize.

As the title suggests, "Black Hands White Cotton" was a song about racial harmony, a very topical subject in 1970 that sounds dated today. Although the voices on the record were white, Johns' vocal is infused with some Southern soul and might sound like it was written for somebody else.

Dave Mason - "Only You Know And I Know" Only You Know and I Know - The Very Best of Dave Mason

(Debuted #95, Peaked #42, 10 Weeks on chart)

Dave Mason's first solo LP after his stints in Traffic was called Alone Together, a title that reflected the fact that he was recording solo, but also that he relied on a bunch of his musician friends including Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (who also recorded the song in 1972), Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge.

There are so many guests on the record, the atmosphere of "Only You Know and I Know" comes off as a jam session recorded in a friend's living room. I realize it wasn't exactly that easy to record, but it sure sounds that way.

The Chairmen Of the Board - "Everything's Tuesday" Everything's Tuesday - Chairmen of the Board: Greatest Hits

(Debuted #96, Peaked #38, 9 Weeks on chart)

A band known as The Chairmen of the Board is still in existence today and has legitimate links to the past, but the hitmaking unit was a trio fronted by the unique voice of General Johnson, who passed away in 2010. While he was one of four voices in the band and each was given a chance to solo, it was largely the material that Johnson performed that ended up as hit singles, including "Everything's Tuesday."

The "Tuesday" in the song refers to a woman, and Johnson is letting the whole world know how appreciative he is to have her in his life. The song is upbeat and the backing orchestration similarly uplifting. The song was written by the trio of Daphne Dumas, Ronald Dunbar and Edith Wayne, which means it may have actually been written by Holland/Dozier/Holland, who were still unable to use their real names due to litigation with Motown. It's also safe to say that the studio musicians were also "borrowed" from Motown's house band, who still weren't getting the recognition they deserved.

"Everything's Tuesday" was the band's third straight top 40 pop hit and also made the Top 20 of the R&B chart. In the U.K., it reached #12. The single's B-side was "Patches," a song that Johnson wrote which became a hit for Clarence Carter later that year.

Joe Simon - "Yours Love" Yours Love - The Best of Joe Simon

(Debuted #97, Peaked #78, 7 Weeks on chart)

Honestly, I've never really understood why Joe Simon's style has often been referred to as "country soul." I can see how his Southern phrasing and deep voice can give him the label, but he isn't Charley Pride, Al Downing or O.B. McClinton. The instrumentation on "Yours Love" is definitely rooted in soul and the backing vocals are firmly gospel-inspired, but maybe the association just proves my oft-stated opinion that soul and country are quite similar to each other. They share similar topics, come largely from the same part of the country and have common roots.

"Yours Love" was one of the flurry of songs Simon released in the wake of "The Chokin' Kind." It's a great performance, but like most of them, it fell short of its potential on both the pop and R&B charts. He would need another year and a collaboration with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to make listeners pay closer attention to his obvious talent.  

Tommy James - "Ball And Chain" Ball and Chain - The Solo Years (1970-1981)

(Debuted #98, Peaked #57, 7 Weeks on chart)

After more than a half decade fronting the Shondells, Tommy James went his own way in 1970. His first solo hit was "Ball and Chain," a song that starts out sounding like it's definitely trying to distance itself from his former group. Using an acid-washed electric guitar lick, it served notice that this was no bubblegum-flavored single.

It also might have been an indication of what James felt like in dealing with his record company. See, he was signed to Roulette, owned by Mafia associate Morris Levy. James would write a book about the experience in 2010 (after the principal characters were all dead and unable to exact revenge on him), but the day-to-day life of dealing with an owner who paid him whenever it was convenient had to influence lines like "you can't climb that mountain carrying a ball and chain," at least subconsciously.

Mama Cass Elliot - "A Song That Never Comes" A Song That Never Comes (Single) - Cass Elliot: Mama's Big Ones

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

"A Song That Never Comes" was the final song "Mama" Cass Elliot took into the Hot 100 before her death. While The Mamas & Papas had broken up for good by 1970, they were still recording until 1971 due to contractual obligations, through the magic of studio wizardry whenever John Phillips knew a fellow member was passing through Los Angeles. So, Elliot wasn't quite a "former" member, but she had the most successful solo career when the band split apart. Despite that, her record company insisted she keep "Mama" in front of her name to keep the association with the group in the minds of consumers.

The oddly appropriately-titled song is a tune that features Elliot's big voice in a manner that evokes its own era. Beginning with her singing over a piano, an orchestra comes in a little later, followed by backing singers. In retrospect, it could have been performed by a number of other artists at the time. Perhaps the lack of originality on the track doomed it to peak at #99, right where it debuted.

Lou Rawls - "Bring It On Home" Bring It On Home - The Very Best of Lou Rawls

(Debuted #100, Peaked #96, 5 Weeks on chart)

With "Bring it On Home," there may have been a slight sense of "deja vu" for Lou Rawls. The original version was recorded in 1962 by Sam Cooke, and Rawls appeared in the song as one of the uncredited background singers. Eight years later, he was in the spotlight, recording it himself.

Rawls performs in a Southern-fried style accompanied by a guitar, which was a little rougher than Cooke's smoother rendition. However, the song has become something of a standard, recorded dozens of times in several formats. It even hit #1 on the country chart when Mickey Gilley recorded it in 1976, but Rawls managed only a minor hit. It reached #96 pop and #45 on the R&B survey.

No comments:

Post a Comment